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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

368

The Reproductive Quadratic Equation

"Finally, lots of people offer the notion that parenthood will make them happy. Here the evidence is, sadly, against them. Research shows that people who have children are no more satisfied with their lives than people who don’t. If anything, the balance tips the other way: parents are less happy."
—And yet! Elizabeth Kolbert reads up on the sometimes startlingly, endearingly chilly ethics of having versus not-having children.

368 Comments / Post A Comment

iceberg

Wow, that was really interesting, kind of laid bare like that.

I was glad to see support for my theory that 3 is the perfect number of kids - I'm one of 3 and have 3 of my own. (HEAR THAT, MR. ICEBERG? NO MORE!!!!)

EpWs

@iceberg Girl, don't you have triplets? MR. ICEBERG. YOUR LADY HAS TRIPLETS.

iceberg

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Yep.

EpWs

@iceberg I think you have probably done your share of child-carrying for a while. :)

iceberg

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Yeah I already told him if he wants more we'll be using his uterus (he doesn't have one YET. SCIENCE.)

EpWs

@iceberg SCIENCE! When my mom first got pregnant with me, my dad was fond of joking about hoping I was twins, because "instant family!" My 5'nothing, probably 100ish pound at the time mother was not amused by this. (note: I am not twins, I turned out to be a very agreeably-sized 6ish pound baby. No complaints from Mom.)

Danzig!

@iceberg He wants more? Does he want a marching band or something?

Verity

@iceberg Sounds like a good idea! (I am a triplet, with no other siblings. When we were three, my mum had a sterilisation; she says it was a really great day. Part of that, I think, was getting to spend the day in bed away from three toddlers, but knowing she didn't have to have any more children probably added to the pleasure.)

parallel-lines

I wanted kids until I saw my friends having kids and how rough their relationships got--they don't sleep, they bicker much more than they used to, sex--forget it. None of them seem happy--I don't know if that's not the norm but they are just exhausted to the core, every one of them. Jesus christ, it looks rough and I feel truly bad to see them suffering. I mean, maybe it gets better, maybe it gets easier, but how on earth do people get through age 0-4 without losing their minds? And then as soon as sanity kicks back in you have a teenager and good grief, good luck with that.

iceberg

@parallel-lines dear lord I hope it gets easier. I'm thinking there's a sweet zone between potty-training and puberty (please no one disabuse me of this notion!!!)

Porn Peddler

@parallel-lines Mister's parents had kids in their mid-late forties. Imagine that shit. Two teenagers when you're in your fifties. YOUR OVULATION: TRACK IT.

Ophelia

@parallel-lines and honestly, I hate to say this...but the ones who do seem happy are the ones where one parent either doesn't work, or has a VERY flexible job, and the other parent works regular hours and generally has weekends free. Good luck with that, families of America.

atipofthehat

@parallel-lines

I had so much fun last night dyeing eggs with my little girl, who is not yet two. And more fun looking at the results this morning and dancing with her (at her request). My wife and I are getting along better than ever (but sleeping less!--that part is definitely true).

Also, if the point of life be satisfaction, we humans are poorly designed.

WaityKatie

@atipofthehat That's great for you. Not true for everyone.

parallel-lines

@Ophelia Even the ones with one stay at home parent seem unhappy--the SATP complains about being isolated/lonely/giving up their life (social/work/personal) and I figure even with all that they're still probably better off than families with both parents working. Was it always this hard?

melis

YES ATIPOFTHEHAT

WHEN WILL YOU STOP PASSING SWEEPING LEGISLATION INSISTING WE ALL PRODUCE EGG-DYEING TWO-YEAR-OLDS

THINK OF THE PEOPLE

melis

THINK OF THE EGGS

parallel-lines

@parallel-lines Part of me suspects it also has (in some part) to do with the delaying of marriage/adulthood, especially in large urban areas where people can basically extend college lifestyles much later than they used to rather than marriage/children being an inevitability in our mid twenties. Is that why the shock of the sacrifices needed is so much harder--it cuts into your brunch time (unless you live in Park Slope and take your baby to a bar because you feel entitled to it).

Daisy Razor

@parallel-lines I don't think it was--people used to live closer to their extended families and there was more support there.

And, for what it's worth, I'm very happy working from home and caring for my daughter. And some of my friends are happy with kids and both parents working. But, again, we've all known each other since we were teens and form a strong support system for each other. I really think that's the key.

atipofthehat

@WaityKatie

Everyone was not invited and would not have fit into my apartment.

Plus I only had 8 hardboiled eggs and one PAAS.

parallel-lines

@melis Who is going to eat all those hard boiled eggs? Not me!

melis

I WILL EAT THEM

I WILL EAT THE EGGS

SOMEONE BRING ME SOME SOY SAUCE THOUGH

parallel-lines

@atipofthehat I don't know if satisfaction is the point, but the sacrifice seems to be too much for some folks, and I can't say I don't blame them. When parallel-lines don't sleep, she ain't happy and no one else gonna be happy.

parallel-lines

@Daisy Razor That makes a lot of sense. But then I think of poor Joan on Mad Men and shudder at the thought of my mother being around all.the.time.

Daisy Razor

@melis Greek Orthodox Easter = eggs dyed red = pink egg salad for a week.

Still willing to eat them all?

parallel-lines

@melis Crack a window and put on your googles, Melis is eating all the eggs again.

Daisy Razor

@parallel-lines Oh, I'm closer to my mother-in-law. If it was my mother nearby, I probably would have run off to Fiji by now.

themmases

@parallel-lines I don't know, my lifestyle has very little in common with college and that's exactly why I don't want to give it up (in addition to the below-mentioned extreme need for alone time). My family, teachers, and I spent a huge amount of time and effort-- nearly my whole life up until the last couple of years-- preparing me to do exactly what I'm doing now: live and support myself and contribute to society as an independent adult. Why would I then do that for two or three measly years before going right back to centering my life on the child stuff I just finished?

I mean sure, kids would cut into my brunch time, but it's not just the day drinking-- it's what the day drinking symbolizes!

WaityKatie

@parallel-lines Nope. Those of us who don't have kids are just as adult as you. We don't "extend college lifestyles." If I was extending my college lifestyle, I would still be asleep right now. Instead I'm at work. Supporting myself. Just like you.

atipofthehat

@parallel-lines

I'm with you on the sleep. It takes close cooperation to relieve each other and stay caught up, but, unless the little girl is ill, it's finally working.

melis

put them in my faaaaaaaaace

melis

the eggs

not the children

this comment became less clear with intervening commentary

aphrabean

@parallel-lines I blame the concept of the nuclear family! It takes a village, etc, etc - the happiest parents I know are in less traditional arrangements that allow them to spread childcare out over a larger group of people. One-two people is not enough to raise a baby. Not even close!

iceberg

@aphrabean PREACH.

parallel-lines

@WaityKatie I'm not implying that people are less "adult"--more that people extend the social, going out/having fun lifestyle to later in life now that having marriage/kids is pushed back (statistically, it's happening later in life) than it was in the past. If you're 35 and going to brunch every weekend with your girlfriends and going out as much as you like, having a kid is a major lifestyle change and I don't know if people always account for it. I live in an area where people bring their babies to not-baby friendly places because not going out cramps their style.

atipofthehat

@melis

Okay, I will be your donor.

Mortals: ph33r our spwn!!!

bb
bb

@iceberg I have part-time access to a 10 year old and it's quite nice! he sleeps longer than we (his parent & I) do, with minimal attitude and still a strong sense of childlike wonder & curiosity.

@atipofthehat "if the point of life be satisfaction, we humans are poorly designed" - this is a very important point. I should also say that these "are parents happy" conversations always fall flat for me given that the greatest pain in my partner's life is NOT being with his kid full-time.

parallel-lines

@parallel-lines And, I mean, we can all agree that Williamsburg is pretty much adult dormitories comprised of clusterfucking twentysomethings with questionable hairstyles surviving on nothing but tacos and bloody marys. Every now and then I see one of them with a baby and it's like...oh, interesting.

melis

@atipofthehat I don't want my children to be part hat, I mean maybe that sounds a little bit bigoted but it's how I feel, life is hard enough as it is without explaining to my daughter why her arms are actually a cloche.

WaityKatie

@parallel-lines And I'm saying that your perception of single people's lives is incorrect. I'm 35, single, and child-free and I don't "go to brunch every weekend with my girlfriends." Life is not Sex and the City. I agree about the obnoxious parents bringing their babies to non-baby friendly places, but it seems like you're blaming the child-free for that, when it is...PARENTS doing that. People who chose to have children.

WaityKatie

@parallel-lines Oh! This is also good, because I happen to live in Williamsburg. It's mostly condos and, yes, a lot of young families now. I live in a real grown-up apartment building that costs real grown up money. Where are you getting your stereotypes?

parallel-lines

@WaityKatie @WaityKatie Do you live in NYC? I don't think it's an inaccurate description of what having a kid is like here. You're welcome to your opinion but I disagree with it--I'm not implying that all people without kids are somehow party animals but you're certainly reading it that way. You are really taking this far too personally.

atipofthehat

@melis

Oh jeez, I already launched a Foxfire cruise ms.le with Multiple Independent turkey-baster Reentry Vehicles armed for your coordinates, repeat, for your coordinates. PLEASE TAKE EVASIVE ACTION IMMEDIATELY or suffer the consequences.

Sor-ry!

parallel-lines

@WaityKatie From living in Williamsburg for six years.

atipofthehat

@melis

Also, your children are likely to be part fascinator whatever you do.

parallel-lines

@atipofthehat A brood of tiny top hats in a rainbow of colors all dyed by Paas. It's a lovely thing.

Daisy Razor

@parallel-lines I took your point to be that it's difficult for people to jump from today's non-parenting lifestyle into the type of lifestyle parenting requires, which I think is true. It's a culture shock that I don't think was quite as stark in previous generations. I didn't think you were saying anything about single and/or childless people.

iceberg

@Daisy Razor Yes, this. that's how I read parallel-lines comment as well and for what it's worth it's been true for me, it is a shock, just how much your life changes and becomes about something else, and something that you can't take a break from or quit if it gets too hard (like everything else in my life so far)

WaityKatie

@parallel-lines Uh, ok, "Part of me suspects it also has (in some part) to do with the delaying of marriage/adulthood, especially in large urban areas where people can basically extend college lifestyles much later than they used to rather than marriage/children being an inevitability in our mid twenties." I read that as "people who aren't married are extending their college lifestyles/not growing up." I guess I read it wrong and you really meant that parents who bring babies to bars are immature and ridiculous. We agree on that. Still disagree that the majority of people in Williamsburg are drunk children though.

parallel-lines

@Daisy Razor yes, that was my point. It wasn't a value judgment, like parents=grown ups, singles=not grown ups. I don't have kids, most of my friends do, we're both grown ups but some of us sleep and have free time and some of us don't.

And I stand by the god given right to make fun of Willamsburg. It's sometimes necessary.

parallel-lines

@WaityKatie don't worry, I am an equal opportunity Brooklyn mocker (see Park Slope kids in bars). I keed because I love.

Daisy Razor

@parallel-lines OK, I'm going to confess: I've brought my baby to a bar. In my defense, it was a birthday party on a Sunday afternoon and the birthday girl invited the baby. I did not strap her into the Baby Bjorn and go on a pub crawl.

nyikint

Man, every time we discuss babies, shit gets REAL.

parallel-lines

@Daisy Razor I don't mind it in the afternoon as much, especially if there's outdoor space and it's a baby and the kid is well behaved. But there was one Friday night at a certain bar where the entrance was blocked by strollers and I was kinda like, "Oh really?"

anachronistique

@nyikin PAGEVIEWS!!!

bb
bb

@Daisy Razor at the correct hour (before 8 pm?) and the right bar, a baby can be a great thing! Their cooing/fussing makes little noise above the din. I've never understood people's objections to babies in bars (as long as they are not the majority) compared to, say, a quiet or formal restaurant.

parallel-lines

@nyikin I'm sorry everyone: I'm eating healthier and it's making me REALLY CRANKY. Chicken and steamed veggies SMASH!

WaityKatie

@parallel-lines I firmly stand by the pub/bar distinction. Baby in a pub, in the afternoon, eating quietly? Yes. Baby in a bar, after dark, when the balance has switched from eating and drinking to purely drinking? No way. Screaming at any time or trying to censor the adult conversations around you to benefit your baby? No.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

Now that I have a real job I have enough money to do the things I want to do, e.g., brunch every weekend. A kid would get in the way! Though someone to geek out on trains with would be nice.

WaityKatie

@parallel-lines You could smash that up and feed it to your baby. Or someone else's baby.

datalass

@parallel-lines I kin eat 50 eggs!

puggle

@parallel-lines ((i don't think you're the cranky one.))

anachronistique

@datalass

When I was a lad I'd eat four dozen eggs
Every morning to help me get large
And now that I'm grown I eat FIVE dozen eggs
So I'm roughly the size of a baaaaaaaaaaarge!

thebestjasmine

@Daisy Razor Um, pink egg salad sounds AWESOME. Where do I sign to get it for a week?

DrFeelGood

@parallel-lines So I didn't read all this yet, but just to throw in my views on your original comment... I spend a lot of time with my stay-at-home sister and her 2 (under 10 yrs old) boys. They are crazy/insane children (in good and bad ways). She is a stay-at-home, and so was my mom. The biggest difference I see now, is that with so many parents both working, there is wayy less support/community for stay at home parents than their used to be. At times, she feels pretty isolated, and I can see that it really wrecks havoc on her mental being, whereas my mom had a lot more stay at home friends that she hung out with.

Also, even growing up in the 80s/90s, my mom was like get the f* outta my hair and go outside, or something to that effect. The parents I see today, are so much more attached/involved with their kids than I think even my parents were. Recent studies have shown that even with both parents working, Mom's are spending MORE time with their kids than they did in the 50s and 60s, when most mothers were at home. There is so much pressure now to be a good parent (especially Mother), and to make sure your children are successful, long term. This doesn't lead a lot of personal time, for rest and rejuvenation, essential components to raising/dealing with kids. I think that there is some backlash to this trend - with the "free range parenting" movement, but it's small compared to the general trend.

Seeing my own sis' go through the shit has definitely given me major pause about kids. I see how you could be less happy and yet more happy at the same time with children. 0-4 years old is also especially rough, but different kids have different *moments*. She is definitely less happy moment to moment, but I think she is more in-love with her family than before children, and children do bring their own special joy.

parallel-lines

@DrFeelGood All of that totally makes sense-- You're nice to help out your sister, I'm sure she appreciates it.

sophia_h

@parallel-lines I'm late on this (ugh, stupid timezones, it's not even 11 here!), but re: your original comment, yes, I am staring down the parenthood barrel now at age 30 and it's like "but I live in a nice town, why would I move to an igloo in the middle of a blizzard?" when I think about giving up the stuff it took me all of my 20s to achieve. I'm not working at the moment, but before I got laid off I kept thinking "how do people do this AND have kids?", and we're not very financially stable at the moment but when we are again, it's hard to think of flinging all that out the window to have kids, instead of being able to go to the movies occasionally or whatever other luxuries we've had to cut out recently. Basically, not getting married at 18 and knocked up at 20 gives us the chance to know what the DINK lifestyle can be, and I agree, it's really tough to give that up and a lot of people try to have it both ways. Which, ugh. Maybe not the best for the kids, definitely not the best for other people in this bar.

Statham

@parallel-lines HERE IS MY REPLY HOURS LATER. But anyway, reading over most of this thread, I'm going to place myself in the category of people who are reluctant to give up their lifestyle for a kid. I'm in my late 20s. I'm single, and I have a career, and I live comfortably on my earnings.

I'm also the same age my sister was when she had her first child after three years of marriage. (She's 13 years older than me.) The fact that I'm the same age she was when she had my niece blows my mind, and I'd be hard-pressed to even consider having a child at this age.

I like having time to relax, and I like only having to take care of myself (and my cat). I'm pretty selfish with my time.

As for happiness? My sister is currently going through a lovely mid-life crisis, so I don't know how happy she is with everything. I hang out with my niece and nephew pretty frequently, and I think they're adorable. My nephew is 8 and he's fantastic, but I don't know if I could live with them all the time.

Statham

@DrFeelGood I'm a teacher, so I deal with parents all the time and HOLY CRAP parents can be stifling. I have a kid whose mother coddles him so hard that he has no expectations to succeed at anything. She's ready to carry him for the rest of his life. He's 17, and he's on the verge of possibly dropping out because he's had no expectation to graduate, and mommy will love him and cherish him no matter what he does. I've been talking to him about staying in school and getting a diploma for his own sake.

Fortunately, I think he realizes that his mother coddling him is doing him no justice, so he's starting to branch out. He just got a part time job for himself, and he's been trying harder in school.

Better to Eat You With

@parallel-lines Commenting late here, too, but there's a very big difference between people who do no want children and identify as child free, like WaityKatie (and me!) and people who are ambivalent or reluctant or uncertain. You're talking about people who haven't decided yet, not people who do not and will not reproduce.

Vipros

Always interested to read stuff like this. My wife and I have decided not to have kids; for the time being we wouldn't be able to afford it anyway, but there are a myriad of reasons why. I occasionally struggle with the decision because of things like "Who will look after me when I'm old?" and "It must be fairly rewarding, look at these people who love their kids!". I still find that our reasons for not wanting them outweigh the arguments for doing it. We're young and only recently married so haven't had to put up with it yet, but I'm not looking forward to repeatedly explaining why we don't want them.

Porn Peddler

@Vipros I'm already infuriated when people ask me hypothetical questions about having children or indicate that obviously I will. Oh god, no, I will not. I can't imagine how it will get in a few years when my peers start procreating...yikes.

Vipros

@Third Wave Housewife a few of my peers already have, as well as family members. I'd be tempted to go down the little white "we can't have them" lie route, but some good friends actually can't and it would make me feel too guilty :-/

WaityKatie

@Third Wave Housewife Yes, "when" you have kids...because everyone has to have them! Don't try to get out of it!

EpWs

@Vipros What really cemented my decision to not have kids was when I started wishing I couldn't have them so the choice would be made for me. Then I thought about that for a second, decided to be the cool aunt forever, and stopped worrying about it.

Vipros

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Sounds like a good approach. This whole comments section has been beneficial to me. I just need to meet more people who when asked if they are having kids immediately respond "F*** no!"

Pizzahut

@Vipros I don't want children but have worried in the past about who will take care of me when I am old if I can't take care of myself. Besides the fact that having children is no guarantee that they will care for you as you age, I've known a lot of people who blew their retirement savings to help their kids out of a bind, such as paying for rehab. A good idea is to make sure to save the money that you would be using for taking care of children and have it available to you later in life, so that you can afford to pay for your own eldercare.

themmases

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher I have a cool "aunt" (actually my mom's bff) who helped raise me and this is basically my plan: attach myself to friend's family with offers of free or cheap childcare, get to be in the life of an adorable mini person, still get to go home at night.

Now if only my sister or more of my friends were likely to reproduce.

frigwiggin

@themmases This is basically what I want, except maybe with a little more distance, because I don't particularly like or understand children. (I guess it would be more correct to say that I fear them?) I just want to buy them things.

Prostitute Robot From The Future

@Vipros Hi, nice to meet you. Can't wait for the day when I'm too old for people to say "oh, just you wait, your clock will start ticking soon." I'm almost 33, so I'm hoping the constant questioning will end soon?

WaityKatie

@disgruntled co-worker With the new advances in reproductive technology, I don't think we can anticipate the questioning ending until we are well into our 50's.

themmases

@frigwiggin Yes, I can be really shy around children (I feel like they sense character problems, and when they don't like you it means something, like a barking dog on the X-Files?).

But that means when I get to see them at my job and they do like me, it's like a free boozy trip to the zoo. I eat that shit up, I let them mess with me even when their parents are all "stop bugging the lady", I come back to my desk and gush about their cutes. Just, yeah, I need to know that I'll be able to go back to my desk/home/murder mystery.

Prostitute Robot From The Future

@WaityKatie :) :| :( :C

Rats.

Bebe

@disgruntled co-worker Hi! I am 39 and it isn't stopping, but maybe some day! I am really looking forward to menopause.

@everyone I am the cool aunt and I LOVE IT. We have 6 nieces and nephews, plus 2 good friends who have babies, and I am like the Pied Fucking Piper. Where are all the kids? Playing with Aunt Bebe. Who's the only adult the sullen teenager will hang out with? Aunt Bebe. Who gave the baby a can of frosting and a spoon? Aunt Bebe. (please note - I am not entirely sure that any of the parents like me, but the kids do!).

Better to Eat You With

@disgruntled co-worker Good luck. I'll be 38 this summer and have been married for over six years. You've got at least five more years of fielding ridiculously intrusive questions, probably more.

Craftastrophies

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Yes, when I got together with my partner, who already has kids and is done with that, I was just so RELIEVED. I didn't have to agonise about this any more! I could work on being the cool aunt/stepgrandma/whatever. It's the best Out ever.

Ophelia

f(k) = p^2(3/t)+ 24/7

themmases

My parents were mostly OK, but I had a lot of friends growing up with really terrible, selfish parents who obviously should not have become parents at all. I think we'd all be a lot better off if we treated parenthood as a huge responsibility that some people have a calling for and some don't, without judgment either way, like being a firefighter or a special ed teacher.

Like me! My need to be alone is extreme, even among the introverted people I tend to get along with, and having kids would obviously be terrible for my mental health and the wrong choice for my hypothetical spawn. Instead, I use my time to do pediatric research and occasionally volunteer my body for science. There should be nothing wrong with that.

Vipros

@themmases put better than I could. Despite people's throwaway comments, I strongly suspect I'd be a terrible father, and that it would seriously strain both my mental health and my marriage.

WaityKatie

@themmases Yep. I long for the day when society finally evolves to the point where childbearing is seen as what it is, a personal choice. OPTIONAL. The decision to have a child because you like kids or want to be taken care of when you're old is equally as selfish as the decision to not have a child because you don't like kids and have a retirement account to pay for your nursing home. In either case, you're doing what you're doing because you want to. Parents need to get over their fantasy that they are doing what they want to do to benefit the world and child-free people are just selfish mean old hags who hate everything.

atipofthehat

@WaityKatie

It is optional. The question is, shouldn't one need a license to have a child?

iceberg

@WaityKatie Are there parents who really think that? The mind boggles.

Porn Peddler

@WaityKatie Alright I am the worst for nitpicking but....it's not selfish to not have children. Not at all. There is no moral obligation to have children so it is not equally as selfish to not have children because of X as it is to have children for Y. Not saying having kids is necessarily selfish but you definitely can't say parenthood and childlessness are "equally as selfish"

EpWs

@WaityKatie YES THIS FOREVER. I am so glad to be here at the 'Pin, you people are the best.

themmases

@WaityKatie Ugh, the "selfishness" thing. I will never understand what's so generous and selfless about ministering to needs that you created.

Just like I don't stomp on my boyfriend's leg because I'm too lazy and selfish to nurse him back to health.

WaityKatie

@Third Wave Housewife Well, I mean, they are both selfish in that the person is doing it for selfish reasons. I do agree that having kids places more of a burden on society, but you could argue that the kids will eventually grow up to perpetuate that society, so it evens out. If you think perpetuating our society is a good thing (debatable).

WaityKatie

@Vipros I think I'd be an ok mother, but probably not by societal standards. I wouldn't spend all my time cooing around on the floor but I would tell my kids How It Is, and I think that is the most useful info. one can give to a new person. But I choose to spend my time doing other things instead, because taking care of babies is boring and annoying to me.

EpWs

@WaityKatie Is there anything we don't do for selfish reasons? We're humans, we do things and make choices that we think are the best for us. I'm happy to take on the "selfish" label because I don't want kids for my own personal reasons and I think it's the best choice for me.

Alixana

@atipofthehat Honestly I shudder whenever people even joke about parenting licenses. Can you imagine such a system being implemented in any way that isn't riddled with race, class, disability, etc etc biases? I don't get a license because with my hearing loss I might not hear the baby cry. She doesn't get a license because she won't ever take the kid to church. He doesn't get a license because he has a history of mental illness. No.

Ophelia

@WaityKatie Actually, you raise another good point...there seems to be this crazy (insane!) trend in the zeitgeist today that having a kid means being self-less, and totally child-centered. I think the only way you can raise a functioning human being is to keep living with a healthy dose of selfishness and let them figure stuff out for themselves (newborns/infants excepted from this).

Vipros

@WaityKatie I like the way you think and would like to subscribe to your newsletter. I'm particularly on board with the "taking paid time off work to pursue my interests" part.

olivebee

@WaityKatie @themmases

Just chiming in to agree with you guys about longing for the day when having children isn't just assumed to be the "normal" thing for people to do, and for the day when those who choose to not have children aren't given the side-eye and a truck full of judgment for that choice.

Vipros

@Ophelia I recently read a thing about French mothers focussing on just that (may have been on the Hairpin) and that because they are not totally child-centered that the kids are better behaved, more disciplined and happier because of it.

Judith Slutler

@Ophelia Yeah, kids really don't need the pressure to fulfill all their parents' hopes and dreams, you know? They are LITTLE PEOPLE who have thoughts and desires of their own and stuff

Porn Peddler

@WaityKatie I feel like "selfish" indicates that an action disproportionately benefits one over others, society at large, etc. or causes harm to others for the benefit of one, or benefits one while flying in the face of general standards of good. I also would not say that the continuation of society is, categorically, a good thing (at heart I'm a nihilist so for me, nothing has "ultimate" or "intrinsic" value-- but we SHOULD cultivate virtues while we're here) and if it is, I'm not willing to say that SOME individuals abstaining from it (especially if they don't think they can/want to raise children, or feel they do more good for society through other means) is selfish. But omg I need to not get into this. This is why I miss philosophy classes, because this is SO not the point of what you were saying, nor is this the place for me to talk about ethical nitpicking.

Porn Peddler

I swear up and down I'm not that asshole at the bar who says, "Now, not that I'm necessarily saying this is the truth, BUT JUST TO PLAY DEVIL'S ADVOCATE BECAUSE I LOOOOOOVE TO DEBATE AND TALK i just really like philosophy you know i am so smart i love thinking" and then gets defensive when told to shut the fuck up and stop being an asshole. I do not do that, I promise, I tear those condescending sophist assholes to shreds whenever I encounter them.

noodge

@WaityKatie ...i must hang in all the wrong circles. i don't personally know anyone who thinks being childless is a selfish choice, or that people who make that choice are selfish mean old hags who hate everything. i feel like an outlier for hanging out on community boards like this and desperately wanting children. i guess it depends on your crowd. do you know people who feel that way about childlessness?

EpWs

@teenie Please don't feel like an outlier! Obviously the world needs people who want kids just as much as it needs people who don't want kids. It helps keep everything in balance, and, as I said downthread, kids need parents who want want want them.

WaityKatie

@teenie Yeah, I mean, pretty much most "normal" people you will talk to will at least give you the side eye if you ever say out loud that you don't want kids. Sometimes it is followed with pity, "ohhhh, you'll meet someone and have some BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!" and if you press the point, it's "what kind of asshole are you/you must go to brunch a lot" (see everpresent wordsnatcher's comments, above).

WaityKatie

@Third Wave Housewife Haha, just don't go to law school "because you like to argue" and everything will be fine.

EpWs

@WaityKatie I love that this whole discussion is trickling down to "babies vs. brunch."

WaityKatie

@WaityKatie WRONG, I meant Parallel lines' comments. Sorry, Everpresent Wordsnatcher.

iceberg

@WaityKatie "ohhhh, you'll meet someone and have some BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!" Ugh, I promise I will NEVER say that to you or anyone else. People who say that sort of thing are smug assholes. Personally I think it's a super-bad idea to try to pressure people who don't wwant kids into having them, because they will not make as good parents as people who want them (although wanting kids doesn't necessarily magically bestow awesome parenting skills either, sadly)

WaityKatie

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher People bring their babies to brunch, also. It IS possible to HAVE IT ALL, whee!

EpWs

@WaityKatie NO. MUST CHOOSE NOW. BABIES VS PANCAKES AND MIMOSAS. POSSIBLY EGGS BENEDICT. OH AND BACON.

Ophelia

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Oh, god. Now my life goals are boiled down to the essentials. Can I have a baby with a side of pancakes?

WaityKatie

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Have you ever had baby-bacon, though? DELICIOUS.

EpWs

@Ophelia YES BUT NO MIMOSAS (j/k, have all the mimosas, for serious)
@WaityKatie YES SO TENDER

teaandcakeordeath

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher
I know youre not really talking about brunch but I had the best waffles with bacon with banana (no joke) on sunday and it was delicious!
Yes Im childless.

stonefruit

@WaityKatie GIRL. I think you need a better class of friends-who-are-parents, because I have a whole passel of friends with kids of various ages, and not one of them has ever said or indicated that "they are doing what they want to do to benefit the world and child-free people are just selfish mean old hags who hate everything."

Like, whoa, those are some jerky people you are running into. (Into whom you are running, sorry.) Then again, I live in San Francisco, so my sample is skewed, to say the very least.

Much love for my childfree friends/sistren/brethren, of course, but as for me, like @teenie, I want kids too! I would like to have a partner before I get started, is my main hold-up.

Kristen

@Third Wave Housewife I kind of do want to get into the philosophical nitpicking, and I am also hesitant because it this is, inevitably, an incredibly sensitive subject for lots of people. So I want to say straight out that I do not endorse any kind of criticism of anyone's personal choices.

That said, I found the philosophical "arguments" against having children in this article to be incredibly lacking. As other people have pointed out, something that makes you "happy" moment-to-moment has almost no relation to the kinds of projects that result in ultimate life satisfaction. If some survey had called me up when, say, I was in the Peace Corps and asked me how "happy" I was, I probably would have started sobbing, but that doesn't mean I'm not glad I did it. Kids, I imagine, are like any major life project that take more out of you than it immediately gives back; the trade-off isn't between kids and brunch; it's between kids and whatever other things, when you look back on your life, define it and give it meaning: the book you wrote, the foundation you started, the people you served. These kinds of accomplishments rarely have anything to do with fun; don't we believe in sacrificing fun (and even happiness) to do things we believe have a greater significance?

And is anyone really prepared to say that having children doesn't have greater significance? I may not want them myself, but the arguments that the "world would be better" if the population went down to zero (stated by several of these philosophers and notably depicted in Jonathan Franzen's book, Freedom, which I'm surprised hasn't come up yet) is insanely nihilistic. Do we really believe that the world would be better if we just gently nursed humanity towards its eventual decline and disappearance? That an explosion in bird populations (or whatever) is actually worth the disappearance of all culture, science, thought and love on the planet? I don't think anyone here believes that, and so if we don't, isn't the worst thing we can say about the choice to have children, "I don't want to do that myself, but I admit somebody's got to." Having kids and trying to raise them with well seems just as deserving of respect as any other life project: not for everybody, but a good, hard thing.

EpWs

@teaandcakeordeath WHERE I must have them?

noodge

@stonefruit - RIGHT?!?! I agree wholeheartedly.
@Kristen - I like this. Alot.

WaityKatie

@Kristen Honestly, I think it could go either way. The world would be better off without humans in many ways, and (maybe) it is better off with humans in some ways (can't think of any, but possible). But regardless, the human race isn't going to die out if governments stop giving massive handouts/pandering to encourage people to have kids. People are still going to have them, because they want them, and that is fine. I don't believe that people who have kids are really doing anyone a service. That's great if they want them, but it's sort of like...people who collect vintage cars or something. I'm not saying they shouldn't do it, but does it benefit society? I guess, in that it pumps money into the economy? Everything anything does benefits society in that regard, though. I respect the choice of people who have kids, but that doesn't mean I'm sitting here, like, "wow, I'm so glad someone is having the kids so I don't have to."

teaandcakeordeath

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher
erm ... London. Come for brunch!

EpWs

@teaandcakeordeath It's only about a 14 hour flight away, I'm on it.

Kristen

@WaityKatie Really, you can't think of any way that the world is better off with humans in it? Because philosophically, that's exactly what's at stake. If society should continue to exist, then the creation of children benefits it. If not, not. But if people shouldn't exist, why should any other given species? How can you even define "better off" without people around to say what has meaning? I can imagine belief systems (radical animal-rights activism, fundamentalist religions) that are totally cool with the extinction of humanity...I'm just surprised to hear it from the kinds of people I'd otherwise assume were basically liberal humanists.

(I admit that, in practice, humanity isn't going to die out soon, so totally get it if you don't feel like engaging in abstract speculation about things that will never happen.)

Das Rad

@WaityKatie My 4-month-old just accidentally discovered cold fusion. Society benefit!

WaityKatie

@stonefruit Well, the people who say these things aren't usually my FRIENDS, but, you know, generalized people, acquaintances, colleagues, etc. I am not surprised that you don't get the blowback, because you do want kids. People consider wanting kids to be normal, so...that is why I generally don't tell people that I don't want them. When I do try to tell them, I get the blowback, disbelief, anger, condescension, you name it. It's generally not worth having that in my day, so I stay in the closet, so to speak. Most people assume I am younger than I am anyway, so if I keep my mouth shut, less ridicule.

Porn Peddler

@Kristen I found the article lacking, as well, to be honest, BUT...

Yeah, I am prepared to say that having children has no greater significance. But I don't think it's BAD either. To clarify- I think human reproduction is, on its own, morally irrelevant/a nonmoral question-- perhaps I can comment on motivations or the choice as compared to an individual's personal values and virtues or social law or the community into which the child will be born or any number of things but really-- I AM NOT saying that having children is categorically selfish or...anything, really.

I don't think human depopulation is good or bad-- it just is. Yes, I really am that nihilistic- not that science, art, culture, experience, etc. don't have significance or are not "good" and enjoyable to us, but I stop way short of saying our existence, our ability to experience life, our status as conative beings (beings with agency and the ability to pursue wants and needs), our cultures, the ability of the planet to support life, our seeming dominance over other beings, beyond our enjoying the experience while we're here, is intrinsically, essentially, or ultimately good, and thus a good basis on which to build arguments about the greater significance of having children. It seems like a needlessly distant sentiment, but it really does make a difference in the way that I'm commenting on this. This particular belief of mine makes it pointless to say that not having children or having children can be justified by way of commenting on how it ultimately contributes positively to or harms the earth. Do I think that in practice, humans do a lot of shit to the earth that they shouldn't? Yes, because if we want to live-- and I acknowledge that we do!-- we should be invested in the planet's ability to support us. But I will not support any philosophical argument that human existence and achievement is intrinsically good, beyond our enjoyment of the whole shebang. The universe is no better or worse with or without humans: it always has, and always shall just "be." And while I think our existence is, to me and for now, just peachy, I'm not philosophically or personally invested in the continuation of human existence. After all, the people who don't exist are not being deprived of anything by us not perpetuating society and allowing them to experience it.

WaityKatie

@Kristen Hm, welll, the issue of whether humans need to exist in order to decide what has meaning opens up a whole new can of worms that I don't know if my brain is powerful enough to answer. I agree, as long as "society" exists, people are necessary, being the creators of "society," but yeah, how can anyone say that any species "should" or "should not" exist. They either exist or they don't. I mean...there is no should. I'm not arguing for the extinction of man. I do think human society, and the planet, would benefit from some downsizing, though.

candybeans

@Kristen I'd also point out that, for the time being at least, the world is (in certain parts) massively overpopulated, so while in theory I think the "I don't want to, but someone has to do it" argument is valid (erm, if you like humanity, I guess??), the number of "someone"s that have to do it is quite small. Much smaller than those actually doing it.
and then my mind goes toward all SORTS of creepy topics on who's doing the reproducing when lots of educated thinky-types aren't. ABORT, ABORT.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@WaityKatie
Yeah, the question of whether the existence of the human race is good, bad, or indifferent is an interesting one to ponder, but it's pretty insane to suggest that you and I, personally, should (or shouldn't!) have children because of it.

candybeans

@josiah Why not? Each individual has to make this decision, and on the grand scale, those individual decisions are what perpetuate humanity. Yes, it's a little narcissistic to say that it's up to me to perpetuate humanity or let it die, but i'm a part of that process.

frigwiggin

@teenie I don't get told that it's selfish--I just sort of get laughed at or condescended to, with that air of "you'll change your mind when you're older, sweetie." Like, I'm 23, isn't it so precious that I have opinions about my life? And of COURSE I'm going to want children at some point, so in the meantime let's all smile indulgently because we know better.

teaandcakeordeath

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher
Ill alert the kitchen!

Kristen

@candybeans @WaityKatie @ThirdWaveHousewife These are all great.

@ThirdWaveHousewife. That position seems entirely intellectually respectable to me, though I disagree, in the sense that _I myself_ am passionately invested in the continuation of human existence. I think a world with thinking, judging, loving, self-reflective people in it is just better than a world that doesn't. I have no extrinsic justification for this belief; I just believe it, and I'd fight for it, which I guess makes it just as valid as any other belief. Question: if we were in a children-of-men style situation, in which, without intervention, humanity would end in a generation, would you mourn it? try stop it? let it happen? fight to make it happen?

@WaityKatie and @candybeans: 100% agree on the downsizing thing, and, @candybeans One of the reasons that I think that, for individuals, having kids is such a meaningful project is that it's one of the few chances you have to try and pass your own values on into the future. To me, that's a huge appeal. But as you've said, you can end up pretty quickly in a moral quagmire with that, which is why I didn't bring it up.

stonefruit

@WaityKatie Right, but I wasn't saying I didn't get blowback, I was saying my friends with kids have never said anything even remotely approaching "no kids = selfish, kids = altruistic saints." Like, to anyone, at all, including the many people in our social group who are child-free/unchilded and very open about that. And I've had many a conversation on this topic with the non-child-having, because there are also some people in our social group who very clearly are not really keen to have kids but are being pressured by their parents to have them, and UGH, those parents need to put their heads down on their desks, no one should have to reproduce, but I'm getting off track.

The point: I'm seriously horrified by the manners of the jerkfaces into whom you are running.

laurel

@Kristen "Do we really believe that the world would be better if we just gently nursed humanity towards its eventual decline and disappearance? That an explosion in bird populations (or whatever) is actually worth the disappearance of all culture, science, thought and love on the planet? I don't think anyone here believes that, and so if we don't, isn't the worst thing we can say about the choice to have children, "I don't want to do that myself, but I admit somebody's got to.""

I absolutely believe the world would be a better place if we nursed humanity towards a stable population one billion instead of the nine billion it will be by the end of my projected lifespan. And as great as punk rock, banana tiramisu, the Cassini-Huygens mission, William Blake and mid-century modern furniture are, they're nowhere as great an achievement as a bird, for which we're increasingly making life impossible.

I'd be more sympathetic to your argument if we valued and respected the actual children we have more than we love the idea of them. When there are no more disabled kids in US foster care or paint huffing nine-year-olds in the sewers of Bogota then I'll get with humans bearing children being a universal good.

Porn Peddler

@Kristen but that is not one of the only opportunities you have to pass your own values on into the future. If you actively live your values (as in, you make it a priority in your personal life or otherwise) you can try to do it...all the time. Spreading your values far and wide but with less opportunity to reinforce them for a lifetime (as you may be able to do raising a child) is often a very successful way to pass on values. And in response to your question posed to me, I really don't know. I imagine it would feel really fucking weird. And I would feel bad for my nieces and nephews and what have you, of course, and I think that as a conative being I'd probably be carried by the sheer inertia of society to try to stop the end of humanity. But I'm pretty sure I'd be very, very angry if, say, my uterus was implicated in that situation, and if humanity were about to go extinct, it might be kinder to let it happen ASAP rather than continue the struggle as the planet presumably becomes more and more inhospitable to human life (because I have to assume, if humanity is about to go extinct and it's not just a matter of people losing interest in the vocation of being human as much as an indication that shit is getting very hard and unpleasant for us)

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@candybeans
Well, I don't vote, either, for basically the same reason: everyone else is doing it, so my potential individual contribution would be meaninglessly small.

Also, generally, I've been married for a few years, and while the inclination to have children ebbs and flows, there's no steady increase in desire. It's at a super-low ebb right now, for what that might be worth.

WaityKatie

@Kristen I just think the problem with thinking about the decision to have children as one that benefits the world is that, in many cases, it's a slippery slope from garden-variety narcissism ("my child will save the world!") to truly disturbing megalomania ("my having children is the thing standing in between humanity and its annihilation!") It's simpler to just have kids if you want, and don't if you don't want.

WaityKatie

@stonefruit That's probably because your friends are decent human beings who don't feel the need to critique the personal choices of others. I, too, wish that more people could be like that!

mustelid

@stonefruit I've had the same experiences ("isn't that kind of selfish?", "you'll change your mind," etc.) that WaityKatie is describing. The thing is, and WaityKatie alluded to this too -- it's not people I choose to spend time with who are saying shit like this. My friends, whether they have kids or not, are totally cool about it.

The bullshit comes from people who you have less of a choice of when you are around them: family, coworkers and the like. Family especially, but surprisingly even coworkers, feel entitled to pry about "when you're having kids" and when you honestly reply with "never" people tend to freak out. It's as if by saying I don't want kids, they feel the need to validate their decision to have kids or something? (Not all parents... just the parents who say this shit.)

stonefruit

@WaityKatie, @mustelid So basically, I can safely continue to hate all the people, all the time? Good to know, I guess.

:( :( :(

this is really pissing me off. These people lack all home training, and I'm sorry y'all are running into this kind of jerkishness.

purefog

@Kristen I think that's the population GROWTH that should go down to zero. It would be hard to make the argument that it would be better for humans if their number were reduced to zero.

cheeseandcrackers

@Alixana It makes the bottom drop out of my stomach. Whiffs of eugenics. I agree with you. No. Absolutely not.

Better to Eat You With

@Third Wave Housewife My husband and I have both been called "selfish" to our faces by relative strangers when asked--rudely--when we plan to have kids and answering honestly, "never." On multiple occasions.

Better to Eat You With

@Kristen Abstract speculation and discussions of one's personal preferences really, really don't belong in the same conversation. The world will be better off without *my* children, who would probably be hopelessly fucked up. That it would also be better without the children of a number of terrible parents I know personally probably isn't in question, either. None of this has anything to do with whether one person ought to or ought not to create offspring.

KeLynn

@mustelid Coworkers! I do not understand why coworkers latch on to this stuff. This is the group I would least like to discuss real life decisions with, but they are easily the group that gives me shit most often.

mustelid

@KeLynn Seriously! I lost some weight a while ago and this one coworker kept harping on how greeeeat I looked, and as explored in another thread on here recently, it really bugged me because I knew the weight would be back soon enough. Since she considers me a "work friend" I explained that even though I knew she meant to be complimentary, the comments on the status of my weight made me feel uncomfortable and I'd like it if she could stop.

What was the result? "Okay I know you hate it when I talk about your weight, but you just look sooooooooo greeeeeat! You've lost so much!"

Oh yeah and I've gained all the weight back and feel shitty now! YEAH

KeLynn

@mustelid Arggg! That's the worst! How totally shitty to keep harping on something you told her to shut up about.

frigwiggin

@all

Well, here's at least one person who literally thinks that childless people are selfish and lazy and parents are humanitarians.

WaityKatie

@frigwiggin Thank you!

EpWs

@frigwiggin Good gracious, that is terrible.
Off to get some Starbucks and laze around FOREVER.

Porn Peddler

Fornication and contraception for the win. Children, do not want, so many reasons. Eeeeeegh.

God, I miss philosophy classes so much. I want MORE of this! More meta-ethics! More thought experiments! I melt...I just melt. Remember, y'all- negative responsibilities (the ethical responsibility to avoid an action that will or may cause some harm) are more important than positive responsibilities (the ethical responsibility to take action to increase good).

edit: but of course my niece rules and I am the cool aunt forever.

Vipros

@Third Wave Housewife oh yeah, totally content to be the cool, rich and eccentric uncle character. As long as they can be given back afterwards.

iceberg

@Third Wave Housewife @Vipros OK here is my solution: The people who want to have kids can have kids, the people who don't don't have to have anything to do with them, and the people who like kids but don't want them can be the village for the people who have kids so that they don't go nuts with exhaustion!

EpWs

@iceberg I like this.

baklava!

@iceberg Is there room for a baby library in this? I always thought that would be nice for the village. "Hi... I think I'd like to borrow something from the colic section for the afternoon, I'm feeling adventurous".

anachronistique

@iceberg This is actually a major downside to this whole internet friendship thing: I would be totally happy to babysit for my friends who have kids, but they live in completely different timezones.

candybeans

@iceberg someone who has read "Sex at Dawn" or is otherwise familiar with the Ryan/Jetha research saying that, in certain societies, not being clear on paternity of a child --> communal raising of a child should pipe in here. I like this concept. A lot less pressure to avoid fucking a kid in the head.

Alixana

Counterpoint: this totally unbiased and disinterested lady says that "the idea of overpopulation is not accurate," so we shouldn't bother to consider the environmental impact of our reproductive choices! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/29/duggars-overpopulation_n_1387640.html

olivebee

Wow, this is bizarre timing for me. I am only 24, and my husband and I are strictly opposed to bringing kids into our life till we are at least 35. And we are both adamant about adopting kids rather than having our own (partially due to overpopulation). But it's weird timing because I had a very extensive dream last night about us starting the adoption process now because we just really wanted to have kids around. When I woke up, I was like "is my brain/body trying to tell me something?"

olivebee

@olivebee I should add that I do NOT believe that it is "my duty" or whatever to be a mother; rather, I love kids and want the joy I get from being around them, and I want to help give a loving home to kids that otherwise would not have one.

sevanetta

@olivebee Maybe don't leave it until you are 35 to start though... even if you're going to adopt. It can take a long time.

melis

Mmm, I don't know though, if you were to ask me on any given day whether the activities I'd performed had given me pleasure, I'd say, "Tcch, obviously not, I'm terribly unhappy, but not in an interesting way or anything," but the alternative, you know, like not being alive, fills me with a nameless and gurgling, clawing panic, so I guess what I'm trying to say is rating happiness in the present moment isn't always the best gauge.

melis

LOOK I'M JUST HERE TO DANCE

Ophelia

@melis are you happy....now?

what about now?

now?

melis

shhh

I'M DANCING

Daisy Razor

You know, it occurs to me that all of those "kids make you miserable" studies are done in the United States. How about they do one in Norway (53 weeks maternity leave at 80% paid salary and a guaranteed return to their job, plus 10 weeks paternity leave) and see what they find. It might not be the kids making people miserable; it might be the shitty way we treat families.

EpWs

@Daisy Razor Hello, this!

WaityKatie

@Daisy Razor Or workers in general. I'd like 6 months off to pursue my passions too, as long as employers are handing those leaves of absence out for having babies.

atipofthehat

@Daisy Razor

Also, the mom-dad-kids family is a new thing in history. There was a lot less stress on mom and dad when grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, and various others were on hand and involved.

It takes a village, and very few of us have a village on hand.

Daisy Razor

@atipofthehat Ha, I just said almost the exact same thing to parallel-lines up thread. I live ten minutes from my in-laws and people are like YOU'RE SO LUCKY, when that used to be the norm.

atipofthehat

@Daisy Razor

How is it we have no villages yet village idiots dominate our politics?

Judith Slutler

@atipofthehat EXACTLY. This is one of the reasons why I am definitely going to plan some kind of childcare collective thing when / if I get knocked up.

An ex-bf of mine grew up in a kind of bourgie commune and according to him it was totally great. THAT is what I want to do.

Kate M.D.

@Daisy Razor YUP. Upthread, I was just about to comment that one of the factors that might be influencing the misery and exhaustion of new parents is an extreme lack of community resources available to most people - or, if they are available, they are expensive, requiring a person to be overworked just when they need that free time. Part of this is about maternity leave, daycare, etc. But I really believe that another part of it is about how scattered/individualized we are in this country. Most extended families live far away from each other, and most young parents I know don't have many people available to help them raise their kids. In fact, most people I know would cringe at the idea that ANYONE is going to "help raise" their kid, because by god, it's their damn kid.

All I know is, I wouldn't have a kid unless I a) had extensive therapy first, b) had oh my god so much extra money lying around (LULZ) and c) had a solid network of friends and family who could help me out for a weekend or an afternoon or something so I don't go batshit.

I don't mean to get all "it takes a village" over here, but you know... maybe it does. Or maybe I read Bowling Alone my freshman year of college and it BLEW MY MIND, YOU GUYS.

EpWs

@Kate M.D. I'm planning on being part of the village! No kids of my own, but available to friends/family who need a day/night off, need a babysitter, need someone to take them out of the kid zone, etc.

wharrgarbl

@Daisy Razor I don't know. I mean, it sure as hell isn't helping anything, but it seems like there's a big tie-in between this and what they found with how much people dislike types of housework.

The stuff that you can't put off, that it seems like you're doing every fucking time you turn around...that's the stuff that drives people bonkers. You have no control over when you can do it, and you get no sense of accomplishment from having achieved it. It's energy-sapping without feeling creative or productive. And, well, that's parenting. Your kids need what they need, when they need it. There's no off switch. And (for most people) there's no real finish line, just a lull between "out of the nest" and "having kids of their own." It's almost guaranteed that nuclear-family parenting is going to be perceived as sucking for the parents, no matter how much people love their kids or enjoy any given block of time with them doing [random activity]. We can file the sharp edges off with tax breaks and parental leave and infant-stipends and a strong social safety net, but there's nothing that can transform the twenty-year-slog aspect of it without a time machine.

iceberg

@wharrgarbl Yeah, this. I'm not a complete moron, but I was (and still am, a bit) still shocked by the NO OFF SWITCH aspect of parenting. Like, the buck stops with us. At 3am, it's me or Mr Iceberg. I can't pull the covers over my head and pretend I don't hear the crying. I can't sleep in, because diapers need changing and tummies need filling. Every. Morning. I can't take a morning off and I can't always do things when I want to do them, because the kids need what they need when they need it.

parallel-lines

@iceberg I hear one is hard, two is harder and three is somehow slightly easier because they engage each other. Either way, I commend you--you are a stronger lady than I.

Daisy Razor

@iceberg Seriously, bless you. If I'd had triplets I would have given one out as a door prize to my hospital visitors.

noodge

@Emmanuelle Cunt my mother (who was fired from the CIA for being a lesbian communist - good story, ask me about it sometime) organized an awesome collective childcare thing in her Chicago suburb neighborhood with a bunch of the women there. they would take turns working and taking care of the group's children. I dunno, it worked in the late 70's, think it could work now? it's something I'd want to do too.

iceberg

@Daisy Razor I can't say I haven't tried ("Want one? We have a spare!")

wharrgarbl

@parallel-lines Two unite against you. Three are typically experiencing enough two-against-one intragroup turbulence that they're much more willing cross each other in pursuit of an advantage. It helps if you perpetuate the friction by extending tangible but plausibly deniable signs of favoritism to whichever one is currently on the outs with the other two.

ETA: If one looks like they're successfully talking the other two into a united three-child front, begin favoring the leader. The resentment of the second-in-command should be sufficient to dismantle that coalition.

City_Dater

@Daisy Razor

Exactly! The United States is allegedly all about The Family, really all about Capitalism.

Especially interesting in this election year, when somehow all our economic ills are being traced back to letting women have agency over our own bodies...

parallel-lines

@Kate M.D. Yes! Absolutely this! I'm reaching the "shit or get off the pot" age where my window is closing--my fiance and I are both college educated and employed and I can't forsee any possible way we could pull off raising a child without going broke or crazy. Which bums me out. I guess it *could* feasibly be done but it would be so, so difficult.

Heat Signature

@iceberg If it's any comfort, it gets better as the kids get older. I had super-bad post partum depression that lasted for a couple of years, but as my son got into the preschool years I felt SO MUCH better because he's able to do more stuff for himself (toileting, feeding, fetching me drinks...kidding about that last one, or AM I).

EpWs

@wharrgarbl Please write a battle strategy for child rearing book.

Heat Signature

@Daisy Razor This is what's always infuriated me about the conservative "family values" bullshit (I mean, among other things...there are lots of things that infuriate me about American politics. Ask me about it sometime when you have an entire week to devote to my diatribes!). They espouse "Focus on the Family" but are ACTUALLY focusing on perpetuating the capitalist system at the EXPENSE of the family. If they were walking their talk, we'd have a push for better and more maternity and paternity leave, universal health care, child care, etc.

iceberg

@Heat Signature Yeah I am pretty confident that toilet training will make a huge difference... not being up to the wrists in shit every morning (we cloth diaper at home because $$$) would be a balm to my soul.

Ophelia

@wharrgarbl ...mom? Is that you?

stonefruit

@teenie RIGHT NOW, is when I need to hear this story. Amazing.

Das Rad

@teenie I am going to ask you about that story sometime. And that time is NOW.

nyikint

@teenie Please tell us this story.

candybeans

@Das Rad @stonefruit I was just scrolling down to say the same thing. Your mom sounds pretty bad ass, between the CIA story and the commune thing.
I live in an apartment behind a house that has two working parents (one working from home in CA for a company in Switzerland and one that's a full-time nursing student), and am fascinated/horrified sometimes by their lives. They have a big community of people around them--Mr. F and I are around for babysitting in a pinch, her parents live very close by and take the kids for sleepovers from time to time, there's another near-uncle that used to live there, they hired a nanny for a few mornings a week--and they STILL don't sleep and always look frantic trying to keep up with it all. I suppose it depends on personality types (ie, I don't think I'd feel the need to be a helicopter parent, but some women would), but even with the community, it's still hard.

noodge

@all... ok ok. she was working for the CIA in DC back during the end of the Kennedy administration (was living/working there when he was killed). there were apparently some security leaks, or at least they said there were, and administered polygraph tests to every. one. she failed two very important questions and was subsequently fired.

very important question #1: are you a communist?

very important question #2: are you a lesbian?

MissMushkila

@teenie I am thirding the request. I've read about how the CIA was apparently crazy sexist and was sued for it in like the mid 90s and I WANT THAT STORY PRETTY PLEASE.

Mrs. PotatoHead

@iceberg As mom to pre-teens/teens, I can tell you that it definitely gets easier - hang in there! BUT UGH, still, the no-off-switch thing sometimes....I often find myself thinking, 'What? You want dinner AGAIN? Didn't you just have that last night?'

candybeans

@teenie did they ask that stuff because they had suspicions? Did she have public (or public-ish) relationships with women? Or did they just suspect that smart non-conventional ladies were lesbians?
What sort of stuff did she do? What was it like working in the Kennedy administration? MOAR MOAR.

noodge

@candybeans She was a Geography teacher for the agents. My understanding is that these questions were pretty routine (if not completely inappropriate by today's standards) and that everyone who was polygraph tested had to answer them, or questions like them. She was recruited at her college, and left school to be a teacher for the CIA. She loved certain parts of it - for example she was able to call the library of congress with pretty much any question she could think of, and some researcher would scurry around and find the answer for her, call her with the answer, and pull books for her if she wanted. It was almost like a prehistoric Google.

harebell

@Daisy Razor yes!! My mother did this too, in the DC suburbs. She called it the Baby-sitting Co-op. Different moms took different days of the week (and times of the day too, I think) and the other moms had time off to go do their stuff.
So different from nowadays, where, I get the feeling, if moms even organize like that, they treat it as a "playdate" and they ALL sit around watching the kids do their kid thing instead of working or taking classes or buying groceries or any of the other bajillion adult things my mother and her friends used to do when they had their turn for time off from childcare.
I was a shy kid so I often hated being parked there, but I did learn a hell of a lot about playing with other kids, including ones who were not my age or not my friends especially.

candybeans

@teenie ... awesome. Yeah, like prehistoric, WAY SEXIER Google.

Daisy Razor

@harebell Heh. I actually have a babysitting swap with my neighbor--our daughters are the same age--which is how I was able to spend the morning discussing childcare on The Hairpin!

nyikint

@teenie Haha, I interned with my Congresswoman as an undergrad, and the Congressional Research Service's job is to do exactly that: scurry around to answer any questions for Congress. Rumor has it that some interns used CRS to write their class papers for them.

Das Rad

@teenie Too funny! Do you think you'd be able to convince your mom to write "The Best Time I Was Fired From the CIA For Being A Commmunist Lesbian" for a certain website?

noodge

@Das Rad you know, she's a Literature/Composition professor now, so I could actually see her enjoying a project like that. She's got So. Many. Amazing. Stories. She is one of the most amazing individuals, has lived so much, and just continues to knock it out of the park, despite losing a lot of her hearing over 20 years ago, and more recently losing her vision. The only difficulty would be helping her keep it to a manageable size. Of the many adjectives one could use to describe her, verbose would be an understatement.

Das Rad

@teenie I have such an affection for people with an endless amount of great stories. I feel like if I had just 3 great stories I could be a hit at cocktail parties. I think I maybe have one, tops.

Either way, she should find a personal editor and share her stories at The Moth or something.

closetalker11

@Kate M.D. This thread makes me miss my mom :( :( :(.

sevanetta

@Daisy Razor FUCK YEAH.

Wednesday

I was always thought that IF I did have kids I'd have to have help. But when I was younger, that 'help' took the form of Mary Poppins or Nana the dog from Peter Pan.

...Actually that would still be pretty sweet.

atipofthehat

@Wednesday

Mary Poppins is a madwoman and Bert has the worst fake Cockney accent ever recorded, but yes.

Wednesday

@atipofthehat I didn't realise till much later that Bert's accent was supposed to be cockney haha. I wonder why they let him continue with it. Perhaps the English folks on set enjoyed a good (quiet) laugh.

raised amongst catalogs

@atipofthehat I notice you had nothing unkind to say about Nana.

atipofthehat

@Wednesday

Dick Van Dyke redeems himself as the old man who runs the bank and dies laughing.

stonefruit

@vanillawaif that's because there is nothing unkind to say about Nana.

paddlepickle

I'm in kind of a weird place about this. I've always had the desire to have kids, and I still do. But, as I progress through my 20s I feel like I'm getting closer and closer to that mythical adulthood I always imagined where I'm generally in control of shit, yknow? Like I know how to have a place to live and good food to eat and pay my bills and not do too many drugs and lend all my money to my deadbeat friends. . .things are less stressful than they used to be. And I think about having kids and it's like WHAM! that mythical place of comfortable adulthood will be totally gone, basically forever or for at least like, 20-ish years. But maybe I'm OK with that? Because even as I get somewhat comfortable I also realize more and more that that mythical adulthood is probably imagined with or without kids, and I'll always be sort of faking it.

Ophelia

@paddlepickle I think I'm probably about 5 years into Mythical Adulthood, and I do want to have kids. It's less, now, about "will it be comfortable," and more about "OK, well, I've had the type of adventures I wanted to have in my 20s, and I would like a different set of challenges now." That sounds a little more calculating than the accompanying "Babies! Squeeee!" feeling, but...

paddlepickle

@Ophelia That makes a lot of sense. That's probably what I'll end up feeling like eventually. Right now I'm just a little bit like. . .'wouldn't it be great if my life stayed just like this, except less stressful because I know wtf I'm doing?' But I would probably be bored soon enough if that became the case.

teaandcakeordeath

@paddlepickle
I have a huge fear of Mythical Adulthood too. I just dont understand when I am going to feel like a grown up. The only situation where I can envision myself with children is some Nora Walker type set up where im in my 60's and the youngest kid is 25 and we all have fantastic meals and drink too much wine together. Basically friends. But in some fantasy world where the finances and the child rearing have already been taken care of. Yeah. I just need help with those minor things in order to have children.

paddlepickle

@teaandcakeordeath We should start a program where 60 year olds adopt 25 year olds and give them fantastic meals and wine and reassure them that life will get easier. Everyone needs some of that in their lives. Then by the time you're in your 60s it'll be an established thing and you won't have to bother having kids because they'll be an Adopt-A-20-something program waiting for you!

EpWs

@paddlepickle That sounds fantastic.

Elleohelle

@paddlepickle This is so me. I have always figured that I want kids, and I probably still do, but right now I have no desire to be responsible for anyone or anything but myself. I know that eventually I'll have to be responsibly for someone, so I'm really reveling in the feeling right now where I kind of have my shit together, at least for this very moment.

teaandcakeordeath

@paddlepickle
Paddlepickle, I think you've just thought up a way to make the world a better place. :)

cherrispryte

This is something that I wrestle with a lot. I have no interest whatsoever in having kids, and would like the general population to come around to the idea that we should maybe slow down with the whole bringing people into this world thing.
At the same time though, and WAY more importantly, I'm not going to judge anyone's reproductive decisions. Have all the kids you want, if that's what you want! It's your right to do so!

I realize these are two diametrically opposed ideas. I'm trying to work through that.

EpWs

@cherrispryte I am right there with you, thank you for expressing those two viewpoints so well.

Ophelia

@cherrispryte I actually don't think those ideas are all that opposed. While I would argue that we can't police others' reproductive decisions, I think we CAN create a society that has both cultural/social and policy incentives that:
- Don't punish people for not having children;
- Promote the idea of replacement-level procreation, support science, and ensure wide access to contraception, abortion, and comprehensive reproductive health care; and
- Enable those people who have children to do so in a way that doesn't make them either bankrupt or stretched too thin work-wise.

I think we we had a more rational approach to #2, then #s 1 and 3 wouldn't be so hard to achieve. Maybe I'm just dreaming.
-

cherrispryte

@Ophelia interested in your ideas, subscribe to your newsleter, etc.

aphrabean

@Ophelia I submit that we also take a long, hard look at our "ownership" model of parenthood, grant more inherent rights to children as individuals, and dismantle the concept of the nuclear family as being the ideal way to raise kids to be responsible, compassionate citizens. I dream with you, friend!

melis

@cherrispryte Screaming conglomerates of bat-ungulate nightmare beasts are something that I wrestle with a lot, I dunno if that's helpful.

atipofthehat

@cherrispryte

I think we need and have always needed people who choose not to have children.

Ophelia

@melis If that was on WWE Monday Night Raw!!!, I would watch it.

atipofthehat

@Ophelia

Melis (or should I say "The Masked Avenger") has promised to come to the NYC pinup later this month and rassle all comers.

cherrispryte

@atipofthehat WAIT WAIT WAIT REALLY MELIS IS COMING?!

Kate M.D.

@melis aaaaaaaand this is what I imagine having kids is like. screaming. conglomerates. bat-ungulate nightmare beasts. love it!

UNFIT FOR PARENTING, AYUP.

themmases

@cherrispryte I like to think I'm making room on the earth for the children of people whose historic oppression prevented them from having and raising their own kids. Despite the fact that the background I come from (upper middle class white people in the U.S.) is one of, if not the most, damaging to the environment, lots of population control stuff is really racist and classist. It's important to me, as a privileged white lady, to acknowledge that my genes aren't really that special-- in some areas, like vision, mental health, and tendency to Alzheimers, they're terrible-- and leave those resources for children who will be different from me.

WaityKatie

@themmases I agree, and as someone who is only one generation removed from poor dirt farmers (or, on one side, poor swamp farmers) I think I turned out alright. I have a pretty high IQ, if that is what we're talking about here, and I've been able to gain merit-based acceptance to many "elite" institutions, right alongside the upper classes. I'm guessing that the people having kids instead of me will also produce some high IQ, successful kids as well. Just because a group is oppressed right now doesn't mean that it's due to some kind of genetic inferiority.

SarahP

The whole "parents are less happy" thing comes up often in these kinds of articles, and it bothers me for the following reason: some of us know we want children. It's awesome if you don't want kids, but some of us would not feel happy/complete/fulfilled without children in our lives. Yes, when I have to change diapers and sleep 3-4 hours a night, I'll probably rate as being less happy/more stressed than my child-free peers. HOWEVER, I know I would be less happy not having a child than I would be having a child. That is, if for some reason I had to live a child-free life, I wouldn't be happy at all. Not just "less" happy, NOT happy.

EpWs

@SarahP This is a great point. On behalf of the many people out there who know they don't want kids, I'd like to say thank you--I'm very glad you know you want kids and am sure you're going to be a great mother. Kids deserve parents who want want want them.

WaityKatie

@SarahP And I wish that people who have that hankering for kids would also understand that those of us who don't want them feel the exact same way. If I had to have kids, I would be NOT HAPPY AT ALL. Not, "oh, when it's yours you'll be happy!" or "oh, when you meet the right guy you'll wake up one day with your uterus aching for a bairn." NOT HAPPY AT ALL.

SarahP

@WaityKatie Definitely. Seeing your posts about getting flack for being child-free is shocking to me. I would say the majority of my social group is chlid-free, and I find myself having to justify wanting kids to people more often than not. It would never occur to me to convince people to have kids! To me, that's like trying to convince an uninterested party to climb Mt Everest: "Your feet will freeze off and you can't really breathe and you'll be isolated from the real world for months, but OMG IT CHANGED MY LIFE. EVERYONE SHOULD DO IT! No? I'm sure you'll change your mind in a few years."

meatcute

@SarahP YES. This. I have no illusions about parenthood being easy. I also have no illusions about knowing what in god's name parenthood will even be like. But I do know that I absolutely, unequivocably want children.

I found this TED talk by the founders of Verve and Babble really helpful in thinking about the studies on "parents are less happy," etc. I think I actually saw this in the comments section here once upon a time?

EpWs

@SarahP This is brilliant.

WaityKatie

@SarahP It might be an age, thing, too? I would have said in my 20's that, yes, the few people who did get married/have kids early on were considered a little weird. But once you hit 30, oh my god the tide turns. Also if you work with a lot of older people you will get patronizing comments about "when you have kids" your whole life long! It's funtimes.

EpWs

@WaityKatie Oof, I work with people who range from a handful of years older than me up through their late 50s, and the "You'll change your mind/you'll see/etc" comments are constant and infuriating.

SarahP

@WaityKatie It's the opposite for me: I'm mid-20s and from a rural area--the majority of my high school peers have kids and would probably be likely to ask about kid-having (if I ever saw them). Plus, when you're in your mid-20s, some people (parents' friends, etc) assume you don't know what you want yet. My husband is mid-30s and most of his/our friends are 35-45, and most of them have already figured out what they want and have made clear what kind of lifestyle they've chosen. (Which, for the most part, appears to be child free.)

SarahP

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher UGHHHHH you guys I think it's so rude that people assume you don't know what you want.

baklava!

@WaityKatie I've found a pretty good way to stop these comments is to just become someone that seems like they would be a dangerous parent.

atipofthehat

@WaityKatie
@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher

"I'm sorry, that wont be possible."

(With a small smile of triumph and no followup questions answered).

datalass

@SarahP Exactly. The thing that really convinced me that I didn't want to be a parent was a conversation with an acquaintance who, unable to have bio children, had adopted two kids whose bio-mother was meth-addicted. The kids were then about 8 and 10, and the family was, frankly, struggling. The kids needed a lot of extra help (tutoring, therapy). But this woman clearly loved her children with every bit of herself. I remember her saying something like, I just always knew that if I didn't have the chance to have kids I'd never feel totally complete.

That was a real click moment for me. I'd always thought that everybody approached maybe yes/maybe no outlook I had. When I realized that there were people who really, really wanted this, I knew that those were exactly the people who should be parents. I also knew that I wasn't one of them.

thebestjasmine

@SarahP Yes, I'm right there with you, which fyi, is a lot harder place to be when you're in your mid-thirties and single.

atipofthehat

@datalass

So nicely put.

churlishgreen

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher @WaityKatie In my experience, it gets better. I got married young (20s) and spent my 30s feeling like an isolated freak for being a married person without kids.

I didn't exactly decide not to have them, but I had always been extremely ambivalent--was never into babies (I didn't even have dolls!), I have a severely disabled brother, and my mom had many miscarraiges, among other things. I also found out via medical emergency, quite late in the game, that my husband is sterile. So.

If I mentioned in the course of kid-related conversations, say, the situation with my brother, I always got sympathy, as if this were an OK reason to not have kids, which bugged me. I felt, correctly or not, that I was being judged all of the time.

Now I'm in my 40s, and maybe helped by the overdetermining factor of my husband's medical issue, I've mellowed on the subject. Most of my friends have kids, and the worst thing about that is that they have almost no time for non-kid friend activities (apparently now sports aren't a school thing, they require that parents drive kids to another state for games every weekend, ???!). Some of their kids are great, some are awful, some have had serious behavioral problems that have caused their parents no end of guilt/angst.

Meanwhile, the rest of life has put it all in perspective. In the past few years, I have: had the highest highs and (almost) lowest lows of my career; endured serious marital strains including the discovery that my husband was involved with someone else (still trying to work that out); lost my mother and tried to help my father with serious grief/depression. I'm also an aunt and love my nephew (but am glad I don't live with him all the time). Sometimes I have great times with him, or friends' kids, and feel a twinge of regret. But it never lasts.

Reading this post made me realize that I'm not all worked up about the kid thing anymore--there are pluses and minuses on both sides, to each her own, and if you choose not to have kids, life will probably give you other things to do.

EpWs

@churlishgreen I want to hug you right now, that is a lot of things to go through. It's very reassuring to hear from someone on the other side of all this ("this"=the crazy of your 20s/30s) that it calms down and that you are not Wracked With Regret Forever. Thank you.

Craftastrophies

@SarahP Some people do that. Some people think that whatever made them happy will make you happy, be it motherhood or marriage or running a marathon or climbing Mt Everest. I cannot understand this point of view, and I hate it a lot, even when they are just doing it to try to be nice.

I really hate these studies because I don't think they are/can measure the right thing/accurately. There are lots of things that I personally would put up with a lot of shit for. My relationship with my boyfriend, for example. If we went through a horrible few years for external reasons, I wouldn't be happy that it was horrible, but there would probably be enough things keeping me invested in it, especially if I knew that the horrible things would get less horrible, and there'd be big payoffs (like parenting). Or, if I wanted to be a grad student, or whatever. No one is constantly studying grad student's happiness and then tutt tutting over people who don't go to grad school. Of COURSE you're less happy, but are you more content, or more pleased with your life, or more generally feeling good about things? And are you doing things that will make that 'good stuff' curve continue to go up, or go down, or plateau?

Plus, there's a lot of studies about happiness studies (argh) that say that whatever just happened to you makes a huge difference. I think the study used finding a dollar on the ground, which made everyone more happy. When you're a parent, the thing that just happened probably involved poop or screaming, of course it's going to give you a dip, as opposed to someone who just went out for a coffee or... idk, whatever it is you do that makes you happy. Slept in. That doesn't mean that their average happiness, whateverthatmeansgod is lower, necessarily.

katherinerine

Am I the only person who read this and thought, this is ridiculous - there is no 'one size fits all' theory of childbearing? People are not that important to the universe. Whether or not we have children is only important to the people doing it. In the long run, who cares? Figure out what you want and do it, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. And it's not a case of having/not having children that does the harm, it's how you go about living your life while you are/are not doing that, that matters.

bb
bb

@katherinerine but then what would the people who write articles and do research attempting to quantify a human emotion do with their time??

MmeLibrarian

@katherinerine The article reads like a bunch of overthinking of the totally wrong sort. It's impossible to generalize about intense personal experiences like marriage, children, spirituality, education, etc. Just do you and let the rest of us worry about ourselves. It'll all work out. Pinky swear.

Megasus

I think we should bring back creches.

SarahP

@Megan Patterson@facebook Ha! I have really only ever used this word in the sense of "Nativity Scene," so for a second I was really confused.

aphrabean

Basically, I've told my gentleman that the only way I'd be willing to reproduce is if a) we move to a compound & raise our children communally and b) he's willing to take hormonal supplements so he, too, can suckle our young. I'm not going to be responsible for all that b.s., man! I think these dumb old studies really are far too reliant on one very specific & Western model of parenting. What would it look like if everyone CHOSE to have children, and there was extra-family support to ensure that no-one was stuck doing all of the very literal shit-work by themselves? What if we regarded children not as a right, or a responsibility, or a consequence, but as what they are - human beings with their own, separate identities? SMASH THE FAMILY! SMASH THE STATE!

Ahem.

paddlepickle

@aphrabean Hell yeah! I feel the same way about the modern family structure except I still want to have kids, I just want to have a weird family. My ideal is that my best (male, gay) friend and I both find long term partners who get along with each other and we all raise the kids together. I can't wait to explain to teachers that my kids have three daddies and a mommy.

aphrabean

@atipofthehat Ha! Oh dear, that's a little too much state for my hippie-dippie tastes.

atipofthehat

@aphrabean

Definitely communal; no old schoolbus with tie-dyed curtains, though.

aphrabean

@atipofthehat Haha is it too hopelessly lame to assert my fondness for some old school anarcho-syndicalism over communal totalitarianism? If that's wrong, I don't want to be right!

atipofthehat

@aphrabean

"I am a footsoldier. The higher levels have their reasons."

bloodorange

@aphrabean NO, IT IS NOT. Anarcho-syndicalist happy commune FTW! (can I come too?)

aphrabean

@bloodorange Yes! Of course! How do you feel about goats?

leonstj

I am racked, because I don't really wanna have kids of my own, but I also want to be an old paterfamilias who sits at the head of the table, passes out candy to the little ones after their parents say no, slips the teenagers my flask of scotch, tells charming stories about the olden days, and then gets drunk, stands up in the living room, sings Volare and An Evening in Roma, then gets drunk, sits in my recliner, unbuttons my pants, and passes out. That sounds lovely.

But ugh, I am freaking out because I'm turning 30, and I'm single, and I feel like I'd want to be with someone at least 5 years before kids, and if they wanted to do the same thing, I'd be at LEAST in my 80s before that imagined Thanksgiving, and what with the smoking and Happy Hours and all...it's weird to still be so young, and also realize I'll never get to have those days my grandfather called the greatest of his life.

iceberg

@leon.saintjean I think you can do that as an uncle, if that works for you? : ) or an "uncle" if you don't have siblings.

wharrgarbl

@leon.saintjean Just find some lady who's already got ten kids when you're about 50 and stick with her for 30 years. The grandkids won't give a damn you're not their biological grandfather.

Ophelia

@wharrgarbl Co-signed. I have a step-grandmother, and it wasn't until I was probably about 10 that I even realized there was a difference (and it doesn't matter at all. <3 u, Nancy!).

aphrabean

@leon.saintjean Alloparenting! Seriously, you cannot underestimate the importance of non-parental roles in a child's life. When I was in my late teens, I met a family with kids, and have watched them grow and have been part of their lives, to the point that the oldest daughter lived with me in HER late teens-early twenties. She's told me that she considered me another parent, and this relationship is one of the most important & rewarding in my life. (While making me feel super old, dude, but still: worth it.)

leonstj

@wharrgarbl - Ahhhh you gals know everything. Thanks for the help. I'm bound to have about 10 more freakouts this week, because I am a simpleton who cannot cope w/ round number birthdays.

Ophelia

@leon.saintjean just breathe, and remember that being in your 30s legitimizes all sorts of behavior, like day drinking, that was frowned on by "adults" when you were in your 20s.

Signed,

Your friendly neighborhood 30-year-old

anachronistique

@aphrabean Yeah, my parents are only children but their friends are my aunts and uncles and their kids are my cousins. And my great-aunts were more like grandmothers to me than my sole surviving grandmother ever was. I look forward to being this person for my friends' kids and to being the coolest aunt ever when my brother and sister start sprogging.

redonion

@leon.saintjean Uncle it up! My childless aunts are pretty much my mentors and life guides and fosterers of most knowledge worth knowing. And I am pretty sure they enjoyed seeing me off when it was time for me to go home. Everybody's happy!

Or you know, wait and see how you feel. I am 32 in that place where I don't WANT kids but I don't NOT WANT kids and mostly I am comfortable with my current state of childless being because it is pretty much a non-issue for single, not-even-really-looking me. If I ever do get into some sort of relationship state that has the potential to be long-lasting, I suppose then it will be time to decide if a) we want kids and b) if we could possibly even afford one little, darling parasite given my decision to avoid having marketable skills. In the meantime, go where life takes you. The only thing you have to decide when turning 30 is where you want to go drink.

datalass

@leon.saintjean The stepgrandfather approach is such a good one. My husband's 50-something grandmother married a man 20 years her junior. He became an instant stepfather to her 4 grown daughters and, ultimately, a stepgrandfather to, I think, 11 grandchildren.

joie

@datalass I want to be like that grandmother. She sounds awesome.

datalass

@heyits She really was. She lived to be 90-something and her 70-something husband ADORED her. In fact, he was the one who cared for her when she was too frail to do so for herself. The only sad part was that he really wasn't much interested in living after she was gone; he died at a relatively young 76.

sevanetta

@leon.saintjean I hated 29, and it wasn't even the age, it was just being single and watching all my friends be coupled/have kids, when I wanted that so much. I maintained that 30s would kick the arse of 20s and so far I have been right (3 months in) - all my friends who were over 30 said 30 was brilliant, definitely correct.

City_Dater

@Daisy Razor

Exactly! The United States is allegedly all about The Family, really all about Capitalism.

Especially interesting in this election year, when somehow all our economic ills are being traced back to letting women have agency over our own bodies...

JG3
JG3

Having children has been a giant "what if" in my life for nearly a decade. I've been married for 8 years, and at the beginning I was absolutely sure I wanted kids. But I've become less and less sure with each passing year. Too many of my friends and relatives seem to have totally lost themselves when they became parents, and though I realize it doesn't necessarily have to be that way, I live in fear of becoming nothing but "mommy" for the next 20 years. At the same time, I have this nagging feeling that if I opt to not have any kids, I'll regret it.

glamtart

@JG3 I'm in pretty much the exact same position. And as I get closer and closer to less-than-fertile times, I feel even more conflicted.

jule_b_sorry

@JG3 Ayup. I'm in an even weirder place now - in my wild and reckless 20's, I said, "I'm too poor to have kids - I want to wait until I'm financially stable." So, I job hopped until I got a fabulous job. Now I'm financially stable and just hit 30, but don't see how I can take any time off from my career in the next 5 years - especially if I wanted to have 2 kids. Taking off 6 months twice over the next 4 years now seems crazy and undoable..and even in that case, I'd need someone to watch a 6-month infant from 9-5 every day and I worry I'd feel like a terrible, uninvolved mom.

Sigh -maybe I can have kids once I'm retired? Does that work?

EpWs

@jule_b_sorry We discussed the possibility upthread of 60-somethings adopting 20-somethings, as a kind of life mentorship and cocktails type program.

Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse

I've been wondering how the recession might affect my generation (I finished college last May) having children. There are all the childcare/work questions that other comments have raised which are all exacerbated in a recession, and then there's just the fact that I'm staring down an undetermined number of years in my 20s which will probably involve a lot of sacrifice/being prudent/hustling and I can't imagine that when I finally get to a point of financial comfort that my inclination will be to throw myself back into financial/emotional drain by having kids.

Although now that I'm writing this out I feel like this is just illuminating how I personally would be unwilling to sacrifice for the sake of having kids, since really we all make choices about our financial priorities and give some things up for the sake of others. Still, I think maybe the choice here is getting a little starker for many people.

ladykin

Human beings are strange things. It is weird to be consciously aware of how a biological drive may not make you happy. I remember seeing an article awhile ago about how if you remind parents of how much it costs on average to raise one child (~$200,000), parents value their children more. (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex-murder-and-the-meaning-life/201102/new-study-parental-love-is-merely-cognitive-dissonance)

I feel torn about children. I feel like I either want none or a whole mix of biological and adopted. Sigh, it's hard to be an adult.

sevanetta

@ladykin I like a mix of biological and adopted too!

catfoodandhairnets

I have come to believe that people angst over this decision far too much. Kids are a thing that most people do. Other people choose not to. Either is ok. They both have their pluses and minuses. Doing te kid thing requires moderate-to-extreme life changes, depending on your resources and how much you throw yourself into it (city professionals having one kid --->duggars). Like any other decision. Do it or not. If someone you love chooses to do it they may appreciate whatever kind of support you are willing and able to give. Even if that is just drinks without kids and conversation about other things. As with other things you should let people make their own decisions about whether to do it or not. We are lucky to live in a time/place where we have that choice. The world will not end if you personally do/do not have a kid. And someone saying "you will change your mind!" is not the worst thing anyone could say. It's a slightly odd thing to say, but it's not pure evil. They could be right. People change. If you don't change your mind you will have the satisfaction of proving them wrong. It's just a fucking kid, you know?

EpWs

@catfoodandhairnets I think the reason it's the cause of so much angst is that because, like nothing else in your life, kids are forever--if you make a decision and you are, for whatever reason, "wrong" (in your own mind), nothing you can really do about it.

Craftastrophies

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher I agree with my friend who has now just had a baby. When she was thinking about it she said 'you know, there's really no good reason TO have kids. I'm probably going to, anyway'. Having kids does not really make logical, individual sense. That sort of isn't the point. Which is why we should all do the thing we want, and not judge everyone else!

The trouble is when you think you could live both lives (kids/no kids) and enjoy them both. It's hard to pick between two mutually exclusive wonderful futures.

datalass

@Craftastrophies A thousand times 'yes' to this: "The trouble is when you think you could live both lives (kids/no kids) and enjoy them both. It's hard to pick between two mutually exclusive wonderful futures." It took me a long time to work out which of the two futures would be better for me. And, it's not like you get a quiet space to sort this out. The whole time that you're trying to work it through, people are offering some fairly strong opinions. What I found particularly challenging was that, when I lived in a smallish, fairly traditional town, there was literally no escaping this question. At work, at parties, in the neighborhood, people introduced themselves, asked if I had kids, then immediately asked if I was going to have kids. So, for me, it was a difficult decision that would maybe have been a bit easier to make in the private space in my own head but, when made aloud in conversations to coworkers and neighbors, probably was a lot more angst-ridden.

oh, disaster

I think I'm still in a place where kids feel like they're such far away thing that I assume it will eventually happen, like crow's feet or something. Discussions like this bring me back to the reality that, hey, it might not. I'm 26, single, and not in a rush for anything, but honestly, I don't even know what I want. I kind of wish I took a side on kids or no kids rather than waffling in the middle.

WaityKatie

I guess I react so strongly to things about whether or not people "should" have kids (bleh) because I'm one of those (probably unusual) people who has always just known that I don't want them. Like, ever since I WAS one, I knew that I never wanted them, could never imagine myself being a "mommy," and didn't even like playing with dolls. (I also felt the same way about being a "bride," but that is another story.) I found dolls so incredibly boring, yet I loved playing with animals and making them talk and act out scenes (? I don't know). I'm not gay, but the whole thing about gay people "knowing" they are gay from childhood on always really resonated with me, because that is how I felt about having kids. So the patronizing "you'll change your mind" crap I've gotten from others my entire life was always just so infuriating. I won't change my mind. I already know. I've always known. And guess what, I'm going on 36 now and still have not "changed my mind." I get that most people aren't like me and many are unsure whether they want kids or not, or think they don't want them and then suddenly one day they do, but I wish people would not generalize from their experiences and assume that everyone is undecided because THEY were once undecided.

aphrabean

@WaityKatie M'am, I hear you. As a kid, I thought you had two choices: get married & have babies or become a nun, and it was honestly no contest.

Also, the thing that's so awful about people and their whole "you'll change your mind" pitch is that it's basically stating "There is only one way to be." It really maps (in my mind) to the "it's just a phase" type of shit I got when I came out as queer to my family. It's definitely not totally analogous, but both things are predicated on the same assumptions of heteronormative, nuclear family-type bullshit and there is usually a genuine level of aggression behind those statements. It's creepy & gross, and we are well within our rights to be bothered by it. (And on one day I left comments using the phrases "anarcho-syndicalism" AND "heteronormative"! Is there an award for daily pendant?)

noodge

@WaityKatie well, if ever there was a sympathetic group that wasn't interested in changing your mind, here it is :-)

catfoodandhairnets

@WaityKatie But why do you care if they think you'll change your mind?

WaityKatie

@catfoodandhairnets I don't care if they think that. I do care if they feel the need to say it to my face. They can think whatever they want about me with their mouths closed.

catfoodandhairnets

@aphrabean Agression? Not in my experience. Delusion perhaps. Some strange assumptions. I had a lot of people I loved say this stuff to me. Mainly out of concern.

WaityKatie

@aphrabean Heteronormative nuclear-family type bullshit, exactly! The day that people start telling young women who want children that they'll change their minds is the day that comment becomes innocuous. Because it could really go either way. I'm sure there are people in the world who started out wanting kids and then at some point were like, "nah!" Also, nobody says this about any other choice or taste, like, "you may hate chocolate now, but just wait, someday you'll love it." (I use this example because this actually happened to me.)

catfoodandhairnets

@WaityKatie Eh, I come from a people without filters. I lack them myself. I believe that by choosing to spend the time with peoplem, I give them the right to let me know what they think of me or anything else. I can disagree. They can say something that offends me, in which case I will not spend time with them again.

aphrabean

@catfoodandhairnets I'm glad that it works for you, and I'm glad you've never faced aggressive or passive-aggressive undertones in the ways which people tell you to live your life! The fact is, in many circles, a single woman, a queer woman, a childless woman is considered a threat to the fabric of society, and until that's no longer the case, then there is real harm in this line of talk.

aphrabean

@catfoodandhairnets Look, I'm not trying to gang up on you here. But that's how you deal with conflict, and that's great that it works for you, but there's not much good that comes of telling other people how to feel, or how to respond when faced with idiotic & often hurtful commentary. You know?

WaityKatie

@aphrabean Also, gaaad I wish I had the ability to just not spend time with people who say offensive things to me! That would cut the number of people I have to interact with on the regular probably at least by a third.

noodge

@WaityKatie oh, i don't know. probably more than a third.

catfoodandhairnets

@aphrabean Everyone faces aggressive and passive-agressive undertones. I just don't see where the "real harm in this line of talk" is. They are wrong. Saying it out loud doesn't make it more wrong. It gives you an opportunity to explain why they are wrong, or prove them wrong. Saying they should keep it to themselves changes nothing.

WaityKatie

@catfoodandhairnets It's not my job to educate people as to why their prejudices are wrong, or to "prove" them wrong. (How? By living to 100 and not wanting kids? Would that be long enough?)

noodge

@WaityKatie a lot of people are ignorant assholes. we all deal with them about whatever we have going on in our lives that is outside the norm. usually, when people are ignorant like this, they are deluded, and think they're being helpful, even when they're obviously not. our choice, as humans, is either 1.) ignore it, get on with your life, or 2.) engage people, and help them learn why their perceptions/statements aren't accurate or helpful, or 3.) be angry. You can't will other people to change with the sheer force of your frustration, unless you engage them.

Again, people can be super ignorant. We all face it in different ways. We all have to choose how we're going to deal with it. It sounds like aphrabean has her choice, and you have yours. It doesn't make either one of you better or worse.

catfoodandhairnets

@WaityKatie If you genuinely think that they are predjudiced, their ideas are harmful, and they bother you, then I would argue that yes, you have a responsibility to educate them as to why they are wrong. It would be the same principle as calling people out on racism. In terms of proof I think leading a full and happy child-free life is the best example. I think getting to menopause and not changing your mind should do it. Though no doubt the hardcore ones would still be warning you that you'll be subsisting on cat food in your old age.

WaityKatie

@teenie You're ignoring Choice no. 4: rant about it on the internet. I view that as really the best of all choices.

I disagree that everyone who says this thinks he/she is being helpful though. Many people see it as a put-down and use it accordingly. In our society, for a woman, being (straight-) married with kids is "winning," and those who are those things feel the need to reinforce that privilege.

WaityKatie

@catfoodandhairnets Then it would be "it's not too late to adopt!" No, I can't spend my life trying to "prove" things to assholes. I might try to educate them if it can be done with a quick, snarky comment. Otherwise, I have better things to do with my time. Like comment endlessly on the Hairpin, apparently.

aphrabean

@WaityKatie Seriously, though, ranting on the internet is super helpful! I personally have learned so much from other people's rants, just from listening! It's a dialogue, and it's great.

Also, the aggression I've experienced as a single lady who doesn't want/is ambivalent about kids is also analogous to the aggression my single mom friends have faced for daring to parent without a father around. People don't like it when you step out of (straight, married, maternal) line, and it's definitely about reinforcing privilege, and I think it's important to talk about. You shine on!

aphrabean

@aphrabean I feel like clarifying that while I'm partnered with a dude who I'm planning on sticking with for the long term, I'm not married & I never will be. So. . . single in the eyes of the IRS and the Lord and my mom.

catfoodandhairnets

@WaityKatie You don't have to try! It just happens. They be jealous of your freedom, even if they don't admit it. Granted some folk do use the "you will change your mind" or "you will wake up one day and it will be too late and then you will be sorry" as a weird defensive "I did this and you did not and I never realized I had a choice and your exercising this choice offends me because I no longer have that option and now I must GIVE YOU GRIEF" Those people are idiots and if you can let them know you know it, preferably with snark and sarcasm before moving on with your life that is THE BEST and FUNNEST thing in the world. And obviously, commenting endlessly on the hairpin is the best of all possible uses of time.

MmeLibrarian

@WaityKatie Here's the thing (and I'm not directing this at you specifically, Katie, just trying to keep my response in this thread) - it's not just single/queer/childless/etc. women who get their choices judged or who are perceived as some sort of threat. I'm a married, queer, woman who is currently pregnant with her first and only child. Given my and my husband's interests and our financial outlook, we want to have one child. Guess what people say to us ALL OF THE TIME? "Oh, you'll change your mind." Or we'll mess up the kid by raising him/her as an only (never mind that my husband is an only and he's just lovely). And, barring that line of criticism, we are subject to nosy questions about my pregnancy and our intended approach to parenting, which often verge on nasty, condescending, or judgmental. And then there's our childless friends (of which we have many, given our line of work), several of whom have made insanely rude comments about what we're doing and barely manage to avoid treating us like circus freaks for doing something as simple as deciding, in our mid/late 30s, to have a baby.

Trust me - motherhood is not a privileged, endlessly affirmed state of being. It's the minefield one over from the one that childless women walk through. As the current national political debate about reproduction and contraception makes all too clear, we are not good at talking about the decisions that women make relative to their bodies and lives, no matter what those decisions are.

WaityKatie

@MmeLibrarian Oh, I'm well aware of the shit that mothers have to deal with about their mothering choices, believe me. But again, it's that you are deviating from the "norm" that society has prescribed (having 2.5 kids) that you are getting the most grief. Anyone who deviates from The Way Things Should Be is going to get smacked down constantly by the self-appointed norm-enforcement squad. It's wonderful.

Although, I much prefer childfree to childless, because I experience the absence of kids as a freedom rather than a lack. If I could call myself childmore without being utterly confusing, I probably would.

EpWs

@WaityKatie If we're talking about commonly accepted terminology, can we talk about how much I hate the phrase "starting a family" because of what it says about people without kids?

Say I marry my boyfriend, which we're planning on doing. Does our lack of kids (now and forevermore) mean that we aren't a family? That's some bullshit right there.

WaityKatie

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Exactly, and, if there need to be, say, three people to make a family, what the offensive crap does that say about single-parent families, etc.?

Harriet Welch M@facebook

@WaityKatie I just want to point out that everyone gets smacked down all of the time. This is not something that is special to those who deviate from The Way Things Should Be Going.
I am 26. I eat meat. I am straight. I am also a white, anglo saxon and was brought up protestant. I don't think I could be any more part of this "normal" society that apparently treats you so terribly. I am also newly married and planning on having kids after an "appropriate" two year gap (no joke, read it in an old book. 2 years proves your not pregnant and gives you time to learn to cook).

I have gotten shit for: getting married (since gay people can't), when I got married (winter), where I got married (museum), who I got married to (transplant), how long I knew my husband before I got married (not long), not being pregnant yet, wanting to have babies in two years, waiting to have babies for two years, not paying off our student loan debt before having babies, wasting time finishing college before having babies since I won't work anyway, not wanting to work after having kids, possibly having to work after having kids

I could go on.

Bottom line: everyone gets shit. No one does it right for everyone. You probably don't mean to be out-right inflammatory, but as someone who is part of and wants that ummm... how was it put? "Heteronormative nuclear family bullshit"
I think you just need to be very careful not to do to one group what you are claiming they do to you.
Can't we all just be nice and recognize individuals and not make giant, bigoted generalizations about anyone?

aphrabean

@Harriet Welch M@facebook Oh, boy. Lady, I will own the heteronormative nuclear family bullshit, as it was my phrase that you're objecting to. I stand behind it, m'am, I really do. Does that mean I think your life choices are bullshit? NO. But you cannot deny that life is a lot harder for people who don't conform to those same choices. It's not bigotry to point out that this ideal of a normative way to live your life is destructive to everyone who falls outside of it.

I'm sorry you got "shit" for some of your choices. It sucks to be judged by others, and the world is full of judgmental jerks, for sure. But guess what? Your life choices are supported by society at large. You won't be punished for them. And frankly, if getting shit for having a winter wedding was a major point of contention in your life, you're pretty lucky.

Full disclosure: I spent a brief portion of my youth institutionalized in no small part b/c of my sexual orientation & the perceptions of the extraordinarily heteronormative society I grew up in. And I've had friends who have been through so, so much worse, for so many other reasons, I can't even tell you. The assumption that people SHOULD be straight, SHOULD get married, SHOULD have children has actively caused harm to me, in my life, and in the lives of people I love. This is lived experience, this is concrete, measurable harm. This is a topic of some emotion for me, as you can see, so I apologize for my tone.

Edited to note that recognizing individuals is all well & good, but if that means you ignore structural injustices - that is not so good, and leads to really shitty things.

Harriet Welch M@facebook

@aphrabean Whoah whoah whoah. I totally get what you are saying and I am not saying that it isn't harder for those whose sexuality/life choices are different than the heteronormative judeo christian values that is "normal" to society.
What I AM saying is that EVERYONE gets shit. Why perpetuate that by bashing "heteronormative nuclear family bullshit".
I can assure you that getting shit for having a winter wedding is not even remotely close to a major point of contention in my life. It was barely a blip on the screen. It illustrated my point that NO ONE can do ANYTHING "right". I don't think it's right for anyone to tell anyone what they SHOULD do. I find it morally reprehensible on BOTH sides. I think it's unfair that you call my lifestyle bullshit, but then get upset when people do the same to you. What I am saying is that EVERYONE (even you, even me) should be more tolerant of people's life choices, sexuality etc.

My sexuality isn't a choice, just like yours isn't. My choice to have a nuclear family despite the amazingly fucked-up-edness is my choice, just like others choose to not procreate. I don't think it's fair or right for anyone to be bashing anyone's sexuality, gender identity or family make-up. So, calling my lifestyle "bullshit" is obviously going to make me bristle.

I can sympathize more than you know for your plight. For the sake of brevity and not turning the internet into a miserable suck-fest I won't even go into it. However, many of the people I love and I have suffered at the hands of people who ignored individuality, sexuality, identity and personal choice. Hence I am intolerant of it from either side. If there were someone on this thread calling your lifestyle "queer awkward phase of childless misery that they'll grow out of" I would be up the ass with the same self righteous message of "STFU and be nice already".
So, how about I respect and celebrate you as an individual and your contribution to my life in the form of thoughtful debate and a valued perspective and you respect me as an individual and know that I respect you more than the assholes who have caused you so much anguish.

Hope that epic clears things up...

WaityKatie

@aphrabean Seconded. You gotta acknowledge your privilege, y'know? Yeah, everyone gets criticized for various things, but that is totally different from the types of "criticism" inflicted on people who do not flow along with the mainstream culture, for whatever reason. I think, as a member of a privileged group, (which I am in several arenas), you need to allow for some leeway in how the disadvantaged group lashes out against the discrimination inflicted on them. Maybe the things said won't be nice, and in an ideal world wouldn't be said, but it's understandable why they are said. Talking trash about a privileged group is NOT the same thing as talking trash about a marginalized group. It just isn't.

aphrabean

@Harriet Welch M@facebook Ok, so I've had some time to think a bit, and here is where I think we're having two different conversations. You can be heterosexual, married, have a million kids and NOT be perpetuating what I consider Heteronormative Nuclear Family Bullshittm. You know? Me talking about how absolutely shitty that kind of mindset is only targeted towards people who consider it the only way to be, who deny the validity of anyone who falls outside that norm. If you're not one of those people, then it's not about you, no matter what your external commonalities. But as you can see, as you know & have experienced, that HNFBS exists, is real, hurts people, and to say that I can't talk about in that manner because I'm being offensive is centering the discussion around the feelings of individuals whose feelings and needs are ALREADY centered in this cultural climate. It takes away a valuable short hand that I can use to denote a very real force in the world, and it would require me to spend way more of my time assuring people I don't mean them, personally, than actually discussing the behaviors that are shitty.

And dude, I've got privilege out my wazoo! When someone talks shit about the class I'm in, about the ways in which the Boho White Lady Feminist Bullshittm is exclusionary and racist (for example), I listen, I try to take a cold hard look at the ways in which I might be perpetuating that, and I don't require that the speaker validate my actions or my choices. This is how we become allies, this is how we learn from one another.

I appreciate your good faith attempt to talk about this calmly, I really do.

Craftastrophies

@aphrabean For me, it's not even really about whatever they're telling you you should do - whether that's that you should get married, or you shouldn't. It's that people seem to think they have 1) a right to a voiced opinion of your life and 2) a right to expect you to consider that opinion. Listen, person on my bus, I don't care what you think, go away forever.

That constant drumming of 'you're doing it wrong! You're doing it wrong! Whatever it is you're doing, you're doing it wrong!' can really get a gal down. I felt it when I was single, and I feel it now that I am partnered but not intending to marry or reproduce. Although the weight is less, and I am still SO ANGRY about how much having a relationship that looks heterosexual makes my life easier. Oh, well, a dude with a dick approves of you, you must be ok! Even when I get comments, they don't have that anger behind them, and it makes me really, really... mad. I'm mad about it.

I used to work with a woman who got married at 16, and it was a disaster, and she would tell me 'never get married young!' I was 25. If I had gotten married right then, would that have counted as marrying young? I know why she was saying it, but that's part of why it made me cross - deal with your own baggage, lady, I am a separate human being with my own shit to deal with, shit that you have NO IDEA about, ok? So just get on with your own life.

Argh.

Howie Seay@facebook

that constant drumming of 'you're doing it wrong! You're doing it wrong! Whatever it is you're doing, you're doing it wrong!can really get a gal down.

AMEN! This is part of what I was trying to say said better than I could say it. It just gets exhausting to be constantly being "wrong" all of the time.

Also, I appreciate the calm and open dialogue as well. I suppose I can understand the need for a short-hand. I am all about valuable dialogue from outside perspectives. I am just really reluctant to largely, negatively group anyone. I have seen and experienced injustices that are perpetuated by this.
I absolutely agree that you should recognize your own privilege. I just also think that it's important not to lump everyone together and apply a label to them. Especially one that is dismissive toward them. I personally don't think that bashing an entire group is acceptable whether they are privileged or marginalized. I absolutely recognize that there is a difference, and that one may be more acceptable than another, but I just can't get on board. I don't think it is productive, kind, loving, courteous or good. It just makes me feel icky to be divisive.

I feel like we can learn from each other, take a personal inventory about whether or not we are blithely perpetuating racism, sexism, classism or all of the other disgusting ways we human folks fuck each other up. I feel like we can do this without promoting division between those that should be allies.

Huh. Maybe I'm wrong though. I mean we are having this calm, adult, friendly internet debate about things that probably wouldn't have happened if you hadn't made a comment that irked me.

I suppose I can still feel icky and not personally feel good about applying a negative wash to an entire group of people and respect your need for the short-hand to express yourself and value its use in dialogue.

I'm not giving up on the idea that people should just in general not be such butt-heads to each other.

Harriet Welch

^ that is me (Harriet Welch M). Forgot I was procrastinating on my husband's computer instead of mine.

aphrabean

@Howie Seay@facebook Hey, Harriet Welch M.! Thanks for continuing this conversation.

I guess the thing I'm trying to impart is that I'm not trying to bash an entire group of people. What I'm bashing is a mindset, is an ideal, is the "norm" which to my mind BADLY needs bashing. It needs to be questioned and faced with honest emotions so that what's the norm can be shifted, so that the next generation of kids can grow up differently.

Regarding conflict: so, personally, I've found that when my feelings have been hurt because of something critical that's been said about my class/type, it's often been an opportunity for growth! Like, I definitely strive for courteous discussion, but there is a lot of injustice in this world, and sometimes, as a possessor of wazoo-levels of great stuff directly because of that injustice, my feelings are just not the most important thing in the room, you know? It's important for me to sift down through my emotions and ask, "Why am I feeling this way? Is it because there is genuine offense here, or is it because I don't like having my position in the world questioned? Am I uncomfortable because this is an unsafe place, or is it because this is a hard conversation to have, and it's requiring me to look at myself & my life in ways I never have before?" A LOT of times it's the latter, because I'm a human being with perhaps more than the usual number of flaws and sensitivities and crankinesses. I don't like feeling in the wrong, or feeling criticized, but it's important to note that there are people in the world who by their very existence cannot opt out of being examined under that lens of "wrongness", that criticism, and that is because of the racist, sexist, heteronormative, classist "norms." Addressing this individually is just not enough!

aphrabean

@Craftastrophies DUDE! Magic penis approval! Sometimes I look at how my relationship with my family has tacitly changed since I partnered with someone they approve of and yeah, so much anger. I love my gentleman! And I appreciate how there's less overt conflict with my parents currently, but it kind of makes me sick to know if he didn't have at least the appearance of a dong, my familial interactions would be really different.

With regards to giving unwanted life advice, I definitely have done that, except mine has been more along the lines of "Don't date drug dealers! Or musicians. DEFINITELY don't date drug-dealing musicians." It's so much about our own regrets, we have a hard time looking past ourselves at the individual we're talking to & respecting their right to their own choices. I will do better!

Harriet Welch

@aphrabean
The reason I feel(felt really)uncomfortable isn't because of the reasons you stated. I have already come to terms with my heteronormative nuclear family bullshit and my awkward place in the world being privileged but with a surprisingly damn-the-man, fight-the-power mind-set.Trust me, I NEVER thought that I would be participating in the world in such a seemingly "normal" way. (I have my own angst to deal with in regards to Magic Penis Approval)It annoys me how much my family approves of my life now that I have "finally settled down".

I was uncomfortable because I will ALWAYS be uncomfortable with what I perceive to be, making a group generalization and thus negating the individual. I feel like this all of the time. Even when I feel myself doing it. Then I have a long drawn out conversation with myself about why I feel like that generalization was valid or necessary and point out to myself exceptions. This conversation usually happens in the crazy-town that is my head and not on the internet though.
I feel like you have made it clear that you don't believe that every person who participates in a heterosexual relationship and makes a nuclear family is some kind of gay-bashing lunatic idiot or person whose lifestyle should be dismissed as "bullshit". Permitted that is not how you feel, then rock on. Label, use your short-hand if you must. It isn't my preference, but I respect your stance on it.You are right, doing things on an individual level is probably not enough. I just feel like it is a start worth paying attention to. Alienating people isn't the bestest most awesome way to convince people you are right.
PS I get that civilized and courteous talk is NOT always the way to start a revolution and I appreciate your showing me as much respect and politeness as I have tried my best to give to you.

Craftastrophies

@Harriet Welch Ok, I'll admit to skimming some of these comments, so maybe I am talking out of the wrong end of this conversation. But for me it is about 'heternormative' rather than 'heterosexual'. I don't think anyone is saying people who get married to people of the opposite gender are oppressing others by that mere act - well, ok, some people ARE saying that, it's like rule 34, but for politics. But not on this thread. It's not that nuclear families are bad. It's that assuming that anything is not a nuclear family is bad, is bad.

I pass as straight, and sometimes it can be really hurtful - and how, in fact, I also assumed I was straight, which caused ALL KINDS of confusion and shenanigans until I worked out that queer people didn't get issued with a card or a letter or something, you just had to work it out yourself. I assumed that I was straight, even though I was attracted to and in love with women. Because I felt normal, and normal people are straight, right??

It's not that straightness or marriage or anything is bad. It's that it's just another flavour, and when people assume that anything other than that is weird, and need to comment on it, it has real negative effects on people's lives.

Harriet Welch

@Craftastrophies
I completely agree. My issue was with the phrase "heteronormative nuclear family bullshit". I felt that it was unfair to lump everyone who exhibits those qualities in a group and refer to their lifestyle as "bullshit". That's all. I think it's awful when anyone groups any other group and dismisses them for any reason. It's been hashed out pretty well.
Having undergone my own sexuality/cultural/social/lifestyle confusion and shenanigans I am extremely sympathetic to the plight of finding your own way in a world that is constantly judging and berating you. I just don't like anyone judging and berating entire groups of people. That includes heterosexuals who choose to live in nuclear family units.

Basically I want everyone to be polite, nice and bunnies and sunshine and stuff.

This is not meant to be in a mean or in any way jerky, but, if you read the comments more carefully and you'll understand more of the conversation. For a TL;DR version-What you said is correct, and I agree. There was another angle on the conversation that I took issue with.

Thanks for being nice and trying to contribute healthy and helpful information though! I am all about respectful and insightful discourse.

WaityKatie

@teenie Sadly, apparently not, given some of the personal flack I've taken elsewhere in these comments. :( But thanks for the sentiment, anyway. Might be time to move on from the 'Pin for me...

Gwdihw

I will fully justify having children by raising them as if they are John Connor, and eventually they will save us all from Skynet.

Just wait.

I think I'll teach them to hunt as well just in case they are rounded up as post-apocalyptic blood sport.

catfoodandhairnets

@l'esprit de l'escalier This is the only truly convincing ethical argument for having kids.

catfoodandhairnets

@l'esprit de l'escalier P.S. love the name.

atipofthehat

@catfoodandhairnets

Me, too. Best name ever.

Gwdihw

@l'esprit de l'escalier , @atipofthehat

It's because I'm a terrible commenter-I never have gottin the hang of the whole kairos aspect of commenting.

Additional: I am thinking about writing a parenting book based on raising the healthy post apocalyptic child.

Megasus

@l'esprit de l'escalier Find the right publisher and it could totally get picked up and also sell!

AliBird

I’m 38 and 22 weeks pregnant. It was a less a conscious decision and more a ‘Hey, we’re getting old, should we stop birth control and see what happens?’ kind of thing. I never really wanted kids, and to my complete surprise, I find myself thrilled to be preggo. I always thought I’d find an all-consuming, passionate, save-the-world calling of some kind – novelist! committed social worker! etc.! If I had my druthers, that would still be Plan A. But for whatever reason I haven’t been able to make it happen, and to be honest, I was getting really freaking bored with myself. Having a kid is distinctly Plan B, but so far it’s been super interesting and I’m feeling a ton of love for the little guy. Didn’t see that coming.

noodge

@AliBird "to be honest, I was getting really freaking bored with myself."

I feel this.

Das Rad

@AliBird "to be honest, I was getting really freaking bored with myself"

Funny, I had the same kind of feeling before my wife and I decided to have kids. Like, I was done knowing the gist of what I needed to know about getting myself along in this world, so I was ready. It almost seemed to break down really neatly: Age 0-12 was about learning basic human functions. Age 12-18 was about learning how to interact socially with other people. You shouldn't remember ages 18-22 if you did them correctly. Age 22-26 was about learning how to navigate the world of real jobs. Age 26-31 was about learning how to take care of another person in a marriage. And now I feel like it's my turn to take care of a new human being and let him go through the same process.

*Note: those ages are my specific numbers, everyone is different, obv.

**Other note: Even so, I'm hoping there's a secret age range where I become unbored with myself and take up new hobbies, preferably involving new and fun alcoholic beverages.

WaityKatie

@Das Rad No offense, but to those of us who don't want kids, this chronology is really depressing! I prefer: ages 0-100 live your life, learn, enjoy, develop relationships, try to contribute something of meaning, and if you get bored, try a new hobby.

Das Rad

@WaityKatie yes, absolutely. That was meant as a personal anecdote, not a yardstick for everyone. Nor is it the sole, glib reason I wanted to have a child, obviously. "Hey, I'm bored with me. May as well procreate." It was just more a way of digesting my feeling of readiness. I think everyone's decision to have kids or not have kids is perfectly fine.

AliBird

@WaityKatie Don’t be depressed! Stave off crushing existential boredom however ye may. Kid-having is turning out to be an unexpectedly engaging respite, for me, is all.

WaityKatie

@AliBird I'm doing it by learning German, currently. Conveniently, the Germans also perfected crushing existential boredom.

Ophelia

@Das Rad Yes, this - a way of digesting readiness. It's not that I'm bored with life, so to speak, it's that I've figured this part out, and I'm ready for the next part. I should also point out that I am someone who's always been sure they want kids some day - if I wasn't, it might be that I was ready to move to a new country or something of the sort.

paperbuttons

I am sitting squarely on the top of this fence, occasionally I dangle a leg in either direction, but committing to either side is simply terrifying to me. I am thirty, my husband and I have almost enough money to live our frugal, two-person life, certainly none to spare. Plus I am a lazy person who requires copious amounts of alone time. I don't see how a baby could ever fit into the equation and yet? I think I want one? But I don't see how I could?

I know people with babies. Some of them have just as little money as we do. I try to ask them how they actually manage this thing and whether they are happier now and I get the exact same response always. A) "you just make it work" and B) "I can't imagine life without Jr."

But those are not helpful answers! Can someone please tell me HOW you just make it work? And by that I mean, can someone please make this major life decision for me in an anonymous forum on he internet? Thanks a bunch!

Gwdihw

@paperbuttons
I felt much the same as you. Then I turned 35 and realized that I was going to get older regardless of whether I had a child or not, and that, coupled with getting super lazy about protection, wound up making the decision extremely easy. Also, re: lazy-- after a few years, you can get the kid to do chores. First chore: learning how to make mummy a bloody mary!

paperbuttons

@l'esprit de l'escalier Haha I love that! Oh you better believe any future spawn of mine will be fetching mama's medicine!

nofunnybusiness

Satisfaction ≠ happiness

largemarge

jumping waaay late here, but just want to point out that the statement is , "lots of people offer the notion that parenthood will make them happy". I know a LOT of people who have had children expecting exactly that- they were unhappy (bored, dissatisfied, unfufilled, etc) and expected that having a magical baby would offer every solution to the meaning of existence. and then that didn't actually happen and they wondered what went wrong. having kids is not a solution to a problem. you are just adding more people to the equation.

Harriet Welch M@facebook

Whoah. I just forgot about showering and dishes and fell into this rabbit hole.

a) things just make you more of what you are. IF you are bored, dissatisfied, unfulfilled etc. Kids are NOT going to fix you. They will make you more miserable. If you are super duper happy-town and want to have kids, they will probably not make you miserable.

b) reading "Bringing up Bebe" right now. Which is an American view on French parenting. Apparently it is expected [EDIT de rigueur. Yeah, since I'm talking about France and all) that parents will be people first and parents second. They are expected to spend time alone, doing cool stuff, drinking wine (lots of the wine drinking) etc. and it is frowned upon to throw your life out of balance by only focusing on your kids. I think this is bad-ass. We kind of have an issue right now with hover-parenting and everyone thinking they need to be all up in their kid's shit ALL the time. YOU DON'T!!! Leave your germ-monkeys alone!! Let them learn to play with their toes and look at clouds and other stuff that you have to do when you are bored in line at the bank and no one packed you any goldfish or baby einstein DVDs.

So basically- my 2 cents is have kids if you want them, but remember that they are just like people, only smaller. You would be seriously annoyed if there was someone all up on you ALL OF THE FREAKING time, right? I know I would. So, let little Tommy run into things, fall down and play with stuff without narrating the whole thing or pushing him to get into an ivy league pre-school or whatever. Also, go to brunch!
This way, everyone is happy! Kids are happy that their parents are effing them up too badly. Parents are happy because they get wine and brunch. Non-parents are happy because they get wine and brunch with their parent friends without having to hear about junior's poop.

Harriet Welch M@facebook

Also, I totally love kids and I want to have millions of them and am also practicing being and elementary school teacher. I say "germ monkeys" with absolute love and affection.

carolita

Okay, am I the only one who read that article and didn't get a laugh out of "hung jury"?

That aside, I'm so glad I never had kids. I love my life. I'm not missing a thing. My dog is lovely, and my BF keeps me very busy. He's a sort of all-in-one pet, child, lover. I just never wanted kids, and still don't. There's nothing in me saying, "do it." I don't look at kids and yearn for my own. (I actually look at kids and yearn for a safe place away from them, but that's another story). We don't all have to have or want kids. Some of us are just not the breeding type.

Bebe

@carolita Yes. This. Although I like kids (often more than I like their parents), I just never, ever looked at one and thought, "Must have one."

I used to feel bad that I didn't have some grand, philosophical argument for not wanting kids, but at the end of the day, I just...don't. I hear my friends with children talk about how they knew they wanted kids - lightening bolt, always knew, gradually realized - and none of it, not a word, has ever registered with me. Especially the ones who say they felt like "someone was missing." When Mr Bebe is home, and it's just the two of us, well, we're all there. We're a complete family. (He also is like a large pet - sleepy, wants to eat on schedule, likes to be scratched behind the ears).

carolita

@Bebe exactly. Though I do remember as a child in the 70's when they were all saying the world was going to be overpopulated, and there was that episode on Star Trek with the totally overcrowded planet, thinking I'd never want to contribute to that. Which isn't to say that's a reason, since most people I know my age who've had kids heard the same things as I did and overcame their fears of overpopulation. So, I don't really have a grand reason either, except that I'm just perfectly happy not doing the kid thing. If I were the last person on earth and HAD to, I'd do it, naturally.

purefog

I just want to say: I never craved to have kids qua kids, though I could imagine hooking up (old sense of the phrase) with someone I want to make babies with. However, there are billions of people around the world thoughtlessly procreating. When I think of virtually ANYONE in the Hairpin commentariat having a kid, I think: "Yes! Yes! Thoughtful smart people will raise thoughtful smart people, and there are never too many of them!" Of course, it is a voluntary undertaking, so, ya don' wanna, ya don' wanna, that's fine.

carolita

@purefog Well, I always thought, someday I'll meet the right person and want to have a kid, because it will seem natural. And I did meet people who I thought would be good fathers, but then I still didn't want to do it. It never seemed the right time, and the guy never seemed dependable enough, as in might or might not run off with another woman just when I need the extra parent in the house. I'm not one to put the cart before the horse, I guess. I always figured I'd never bring a kid into the world unless all my preconditions (such as the right father and enough economic stability) were met, otherwise all I'd be doing was ruining my life. I wasn't worried so much about the potential kid -- everyone knows kids can adapt to pretty much any living conditions as long as their parent is half decent. I just figured why ruin my life procreating if other people can repopulate the world in my place? And yeah, I bet most of us here would be great mothers!

Craftastrophies

@carolita I found someone I would voluntarily reproduce with, against all expectations. One of the reasons is that he already has two kids, and was the main caregiver and house spouse, he is a Responsible Grown Up. (Un)fortunately this also means he's already done, and is ready to live his own life, now. Well, when they hit 18 and move out, soon. The fact that I'm not real cut up about that is probably a sign that I wont' regret not having kids.

Lemonnier

I have a kid. He's great. Raising him has been a lot of fun, but I'm also a pretty fun person, so I suspect my experience has had more to do with who I am than THE FULFILLMENT INHERENT IN CHILD REARING, DUM DUM DUMMMMMM.

As with most things, your mileage may vary.

carolita

@Lemonnier bravo!

LaLoba

You guys are 4.5 hours ahead of me it's like we live in different time zones!!

Anyway I recently had a semi-drunk discussion on desires to pro-create with a fellow and a lady, the fellow presented a slightly cynical view that it's great to have children to re-imagine your possibilities and make sure you're never alone.

Then he turned to me and said, "I'll bet you don't want to have a children . . . I bet you just want a farm somewhere with a herd of unwanted puppies and old dogs running around and you will live among them."

And I was like YES

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