On the Question of Children

I have several friends who either have children or are trying to have children. I have friends who don’t have children and will never have children. I have friends who are undecided. I am asked weekly whether my husband and I will have children. All this has led to the question of children and the uncertainty of that future to be forefront in my mind. It has led to worry and wistfulness and pondering and uncertainty.

You see, I don’t know what I think about having a child/children myself. Not anymore at least.

When I was growing up it was always a forgone conclusion. When people grow up and get married, they have kids. It just happens. Hell, I didn’t always imagine the married part, but there was always the option of adoption or being a foster parent or something. I think it was Angels in the Outfield that made the adoption/foster parent option prominent in my thoughts off and on. As I got older and discussed future plans and whatnot with friends in middle and high school it also was “when I have kids” not “if I have kids.” There was the assumption of being a mom.

However, I never really thought much about what that would mean and how it would impact my life. It was always something I would just work through. If it was me and my boyfriend/husband, awesome. If it was just me, alright, I could do that. Even if I didn’t know how it would happen or when or whatnot, I just assumed I was going to have kids, I was going to be a mother.

There of course was fear as well. I was scared that I would handle disappointments and the trouble that kids get into like my father did. My brother and I were actually pretty settled kids. We didn’t cause too much trouble and could be eventually wrangled into doing chores and did well in school and didn’t really have friends that got us into trouble any more than we managed on our own. My brother was a bit more trouble than me, but still in the grand scheme of things, neither of my parents were the recipients of that universal karma that their parents threatened them with. Regardless, my father scared me and I could not imagine doing that to my own kids, but since it was something I had seen and grew up with from a young age I also was aware that I could very easily have learned those patterns and it wouldn’t be easy to avoid them and avoid swinging the completely opposite direction. Even with that there was still a “when” not an “if.”

Then I married Matt, my ex, and I discovered that my language and concept of children changed. I couldn’t really imagine children with him. It wasn’t right. It took me a few years to sort that out. Before then it was always a “maybe” or “someday, but not now” or “we’re not certain.” Which isn’t really surprising in hind-sight. I had trouble figuring out if I could actually see much of a future there anyway, though that also took me a year or two of thinking to determine that it was what I was thinking and why it was a problem.

And now I’m with my husband. I could easily imagine him as a father, a goofy and silly and awesome dad that would make most kids excited when young and *facepalm* but secretly be pleased when older. I like to think that I’d be a similar sort of mom. But he is at best neutral regarding kids though I learned last night that negative with the potential for a neutral opinion. He has never really had an urge or desire to be a father. If his girlfriend/wife wanted children then he would work with that, but his opinion is that they are noisy, are troublesome (not his exact words, but that is my impression) and require a lot of money and he could spend that on toys instead. Though he does agree that the toys kids have are kind of amusing, just not as cool as the type of kids he gets as an adult. He also doesn’t much like the whole first 5 or 6 years as they are not capable of taking care of themselves at all. With most animals, that phase only lasts a few weeks or months and then they’re capable of being self-sustaining. If it would make me happy to have children and that happiness would not be satisfied by a puppy/kitten or some other new pet, then he would be willing to look into the possibility with me. As it is, he is happy with just us and doesn’t see the need for anyone more.

This new information has left me even more uncertain. I can’t say that having children would make me happy. I can imagine that there would be joys, but it would be a different set of joys than what we would experience if it were just us. Again, I never really imagined life without kids, but I also never really actually imagined a life with kids either. I also have to take into consideration that my husband would rather not have children if the decision were left entirely up to him. I would not want to force my decision upon him – if something were to happen to me then he would be left as the primary provider for children that he had not thought about until I more or less forced them upon him. Also, there is the possibility that he would eventually resent them, the time and effort and money and trouble and energy that is required to raise children. He could come to resent me and/or the kids and that would be very troubling for me. And since my thoughts are still “if” about one quarter of the time then that would indicate I’m not certain enough to ask him to go with a decision which he is mostly against.

It’s funny in a way, there are times when I have wished to have kids and become nostalgic for an imagined future/life. I also really enjoy children and hope that with my experience at work and willingness to learn and all that good jazz that I’d do alright raising kids. Not perfect, but at least no more likely to make mistakes than other educated parents. And other times I do not have a desire to raise a child in this world as it is and am aware that in order to raise a child the way I would like to it would require a lot more effort on our part than what I received for certain, and likely more than he received while growing up as well. I guess that’s part of the whole educated thing.

Even with all that fear and uncertainty, if I really let myself think about it, I’m both relieved and disappointed when I do a monthly pregnancy test-yes, I am that paranoid that my birth control is not 100% effective-and the result is negative. There’s still that majority of my thoughts that have reverted to “when” thinking now that I have actually found my husband and feel like it’s something we could make work if we so chose to do so. There are still worries, concerns and a lot of what-ifs that would go with becoming a parent, but they aren’t so scary anymore. Just worries and concerns and what-ifs that always come with new experiences and a different sort of life than what I’ve ever experienced.

But… I still don’t feel like my opinion/decision should override my husband’s. Generally speaking, in a debate if there is no clear “winner” than the negative side, the side arguing for no change, is determined the winner and no changes are made. It’s similar with voting – someone with a neutral opinion would vote for no change and it would count the same as someone who was strongly against a change. There are two of us, if we have opposing opinions then the one arguing for no change or the least amount of change would be the “winner” or however else you could term it. Of course there are exceptions for strong opinions and whatnot, but for huge life changing things like the decision whether to have kids or not… that’s not one where one strong opinion should override the other.

*sigh* There’s really no easy, clear, or simple answer. This is not something that a coin flip, eenie-meenie-miney-mo or rock-paper-scizzors(lizard-spock!) can solve. Maybe just writing all this out will help me to be able to discuss my opinion a little bit better and I can stop freaking him out with really broad and open-ended questions. That’s probably the best I can hope for at this time. Well, that and the lesson not to spring such heavy, open-ended questions on him at dinner with no context… *blushes*

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