I would like a serious answer about this.
I am not a parent, and I have been told that until I become a parent, I can never really understand what it is like to be one. So I just have to trust what the parents tell me.
And yet I am quite sure that most parents are not telling the full truth and nothing but the truth.
One of my very few skills in life is detecting lies and omissions. And my radar is going off all over the place when it comes to parents.
I would really like to understand the parenthood thing. So I often ask people what it’s like. But most of the time, I don’t think I get a full and honest answer. The usual answer is something along the lines of “it’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life and you should definitely have kids too.” To me, this is rather hard to swallow.
On the other hand, I have also gotten the following less rosy responses:
· One woman told me that while she loves her kids and would never unwish their existence now that they’re here, if she had known what parenthood was like before she had kids, she wouldn’t have done it.
· Another man told me that while his life cruised along at a solid 8 on the 1-to-10 scale before he had children, it was almost entirely 1s and 10s afterwards. And that he wasn’t sure the roller-coaster was preferable.
· Another woman told me that while she generally feels satisfied and happy, at least once a week she wants to abandon her husband and kids and just run away from her life. The funny thing about that comment was that to me, wanting to run away from your life and disappear sounds REALLY BAD – if I felt that way about my life even occasionally, I would be looking to make some immediate and drastic changes. But the woman who said this acted like it was ordinary.
These three examples were people who were unusually candid. But with most parents I talk to, I suspect that they’re lying, or at least hiding something.
Perhaps this is fair, because I generally don’t feel like I can be honest with parents about how it looks to me as an outside observer – I’m afraid they will either cry or slap me.
Because most of the time, from my perspective, it doesn’t look good. The parents I know seem, as a general rule, to be less happy than the non-parents. They are more stressed out, more exhausted, more worried, less fun, less funny, and much more interested in their personal/familial lives than the outside world – at least compared to those without children.
Now of course, this is all perfectly natural. Raising a child (or more than one) takes a huge amount of physical and emotional energy. Anything that sucks up your physical and emotional energy will lead to the previously enumerated list of characteristics. So I understand.
But my question is, why do people become parents when parenthood seems so awful?
I don’t criticize people who have children. Just the opposite. I’m GLAD most people want kids, because we need them. I love my niece and I’m glad my sister had her, for my own selfish enjoyment. But I can also look at my sister’s life and say that, as an objective matter, it seemed better before she became a parent (she might not agree with me but that’s my assessment).
I just don’t get it. I’ve never understood it. It truly mystifies me why anyone would want to have children. And I really want to understand.
Here’s the way I see it: having a child is like having an arranged marriage with a person you won’t meet until your wedding day. And then you can never get divorced. Your spouse could be tall or short, kind or mean, mentally or physically disabled, funny or humorless, ugly or pretty, lazy or energetic, smart or dull – you won’t know until it’s too late. And you will be 100% responsible for your spouse’s emotional, physical, intellectual, and financial well-being for the rest of your life. If your spouse has problems – say, he/she is an alcoholic or autistic – you will be blamed. You will worry about your spouse and feel guilty about your spouse without cease.
Who in their right mind would sign up for a marriage like that? NO ONE!! Yet that’s exactly what you sign up for when you have a child. You don’t know who your child will be until it’s too late. And you can never, ever, ever un-do it.
So why do 9 out of 10 people seem so gung-ho about this?? Can anyone give me some answers?
This question is of particular interest to me because I am a 31-year old childless woman. Accordingly, I receive inquiries about my interest in motherhood fairly frequently. I respond that I have no such interest. When asked why, I can rattle off a long list:
· The thought of pregnancy and birth is literally horrifying (and I don’t understand why most women don’t feel this way – a HUMAN BEING grows IN YOUR GUTS and then tears its way out of the most sensitive part of your body!!! Aaiiieee!!! I got goose-bumps just typing that -- shudder).
· It’s much too risky to make a lifelong commitment to a human being I’ve never even met, who could very well be someone I wouldn’t like at all, or who wouldn’t like me at all.
· I deeply value and enjoy my romantic/sexual relationship and don’t want to ruin it.
· I strive to minimize my financial obligations in all manners possible and a child is the biggest financial obligation I can think of.
· While dogs and cats bring a smile to my face and make me want to touch and interact with them, I’m indifferent to children.
· I’m philosophically uncomfortable with the lack of consent inherent in parent-child relationships – children don’t ask to be born and certainly don’t ask to be born to their particular parents or raised in a particular household. I still sympathize with the teenager’s outrage at being forced to live by rules they never agreed to.
· When I think back to my own childhood I feel quite bad for my parents and all the sacrifices they made, and certainly would not want to live with my adolescent self.
· I cherish sleep and the idea of not sleeping in on weekends makes me want to cry.
· Human society could very well be worse in the future, and there are too many humans.
· I prefer peace and quiet, I’m a low-energy person, and I’m an introverted type who needs to spend lots of time in my own head.
· I find the idea of living with someone who masturbates all over your house, openly disrespects you, lies to your face, and eats all your food (i.e. a teenager) distasteful.
I could go on, but the point is, I can easily think of dozens of very concrete and important reasons not to have a child. Yet I never get ANY comprehensible explanation for why I should want a child. Instead, I get bizarre and inexplicable reasons, like the following:
· It’s a form of immortality. (Really? Does anyone actually care about this??)
· It’s fascinating to watch a little you develop. (I assuredly do the world a big favor by preventing it from having to deal with a “little me”)
· You’ll have someone to care about you when you’re old (This one is the weirdest. I should make my life miserable during my prime for the benefit of my last few decrepit months? I would rather hang out with other old decrepit people than guilt young people into hanging out with me at that point anyway)
I am at the age where everyone around me is popping out babies. I feign enthusiasm and cheer for my friends upon each new pregnancy, when really I find the whole phenomenon to be quite inscrutable. Still, when most people you know and the culture as a whole collectively tells you that you’re wrong, that you would be a great mother, that you would love being a mother, and that you’re missing out, you start to doubt yourself. So I wonder.
I am not trying to be snarky or mean-spirited. I am honestly just curious. I want to understand. Because I only have a few years left to change my mind.
So please, explain it to me. Why have kids when it looks so bad?