Sunday, May 12, 2013

How Do You Decide If You Want Kids?

"Stumped" wrote in to Dear Margo:

Almost everything about my relationship is perfect. There is one thing, however, that’s not. And I can’t decide whether or not it’s a big deal. My fella’s older and already has a child - who has kids of her own.

So he's a grandfather.

I've never had baby fever, but I think about it more lately than I ever have. How do I know if I’ll regret not having a child of my own?

She didn't mention marriage. Should we assume she isn't marred to this guy? He should not be having any more children because he is too old, unless we're talking about a fit, healthy 40-year-old man with a 21-year-old daughter who has made babies.

But the question of whether or not to have children is one of the top three questions a person must face in life. I struggled with that question myself. If you're not reasonably certain you want to be a mother, then don't be one.

Can that change? Of course it can. The four basic scenarios are that you get to be past childbearing age and you find that what happened over the years was...
1) Wanting to be a mother and becoming a mother.
2) Wanting to be a mother and not becoming a mother
3) Not wanting to be a mother and not becoming a mother.
4) Not wanting to be a mother and becoming a mother.

#1 and 3 are best, of course. #2 is bad for you. #4 is bad for the child, and we definitely want to avoid that one.

You should spend a lot of time babysitting your boyfriend's grandchildren. Imagine you had to deal with that 24/7/365 for 18 years – dealing with illnesses, injuries, doctor visits, potty training, education, discipline, etc.

So how should a woman decide if she wants to have children? Here is a checklist:

1) Do you find yourself with way too much free time?
2) Do you find yourself with way too much free energy?
3) Do you want to reduce your chances of ever getting a good, full night's sleep?
4) Do you think you have too little to worry about in life?
5) Do you find yourself with way too much extra money?
6) Do you want to make your sex life much more difficult and restricted?
7) Do you want to get sick more often?
8) Do you want to make it more difficult to do just about everything you do in life, from taking a shower, to going to dinner, to traveling, to moving?
9) Do you want to be forced to deal with your current lover or any other man and his family for the rest of your life? (Or can you imagine finding someone else and putting up with that person and his family for the rest of your life?)
10) Do you find that your breasts are too perky?
11) Do you want to significantly change your body into a less youthful state?
12) Do you want to spend a few years changing diapers and potty training?
13) Do you want to watch another human being going through all of the pain, frustration, embarrassment, and heartache of growing up?
14) Do you want to forgo books, movies, television shows, and songs you like to have to read/watch/listen to ones that drive you crazy or bore you to tears – over and over and over and over and over and over again?
15) Is your home too quiet, clean, and organized?
16) Are you willing to a) put a career on hold for at least several years and restrict your husband's career, or b) let your husband put his career on hold, while restricting your own career?
17) Do you want to drive a "family car" and wear mom jeans?
18) Do you want to live a life in which taking the children anywhere will mean constantly watching them and tending to them so as to keep them from maiming themselves, maiming another child, breaking something expensive, or getting kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered (a crime for which you will automatically be a prime suspect)?
19) Do you want to frequently be told by others, family and strangers alike, you're not doing what's best for your child?
20) Do you either want to be a homeschooling teacher, pay for private school, or condemn your children to the absurdity and dysfunction of public education?

If you can answer yes to these questions, then maybe you should have kids.

Let's face it. Yes, babies are freakin' adorable, but most kids born throughout history were born because they were the natural result of sexual intercourse. Parents did find kids handy as labor to help on the farm or in the family business. But we don't use child labor anymore, except in that oh-so-progressive entertainment industry. Instead, we send kids to school for 13-19+ years, thus turning them into a personal financial liability rather than an asset. (Collectively, we need more children to keep the government ponzi schemes funded... so it is strange that many of the same people who love those ponzi schemes encourage trending towards fewer births.)

Seriously, it is more important to ask what you have to offer a child, because parenthood isn't about you, it is about the children. But parenthood can be enjoyable, despite all of the drags implied by my list. I do get enjoyment from being father. There's a lot about my childless life I miss... a lot... and sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't have condemned my child to having me as a father, but Nature's God does something to the brains of some men, like me, so that when we become fathers we develop this kind of amnesia and restructuring, so we don't mind so much that we're not doing hardly of the things we enjoyed so much before we became fathers. Really. It's bizarre. Don't think this happens to every guy with offspring, because it clearly doesn't.

I find my children entertaining. Watching them learn new things, the funny things they say... their giggles, gifts, and hugs... they're priceless. I never thought I was going to enjoy changing diapers, but I even had fun doing that, and being a father has certainly taught me a lot about thinking of myself as God's child. Being a father has definitely caused me to learn more about myself. If nothing else, I have continued the long chain of my family line another generation, and I'm influencing a least a tiny portion of the next generation through people who will hopefully outlive me.

So, I guess the bottom line is that if you care mostly about personal freedom, personal pleasure, career, and amassing material wealth, then it is a good idea not to have kids. But if you care more about loving others and continuing humanity, then give serious thought to becoming a parent.

Dear Margo (oh yeah... almost forgot) responded:

You don't mention this man's preferences.
That's a very good point. Even if he is fit and 40, he might not want to start another round of kids.

(This was bumped up from 2011.)

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