Utah, USA
December 31
I'm a lawyer with a background in the social sciences. I enjoy reading, thinking about, and pontificating on family and gender relations, evolutionary biology, psychology, culture, and philosophy. I'm currently working on a research project related to parenthood and how people make the decision about whether or not to have kids.


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MARCH 31, 2009 4:53PM

Does Having Children Ruin Your Life?

Rate: 62 Flag

                            crying_baby 1


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.

                         crying_baby 2

 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?


                             baby 3


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?





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I did not have a kid til I was 36, so I know the before and after as I was "Childfree" and loving it until I got knocked up. I had a kid because I did not want to kill him to get out of it. I kept him becasue I fell in love with him as I bore him.

I will offer the straight dope.

In order of your list, the answers to your reasons not to for me are:

It doesn't grow in your guts, it grows in your womb, and I thought it would be horrifying, "Alien" and all that. It was not. It was the most beautiful experience I have eve had. I never wanted to give birth as he was safe and protected as long as he was inside. You grow a new organ, the placenta! Making life is awe inspiring.

You very well may not like them and they may not like you. That is why two parents are desirable, as the other half of the one you create needs both sets of its blueprints around to explain the weird to the one that didn't give it to them.

They do not ruin your sex life but they do diminish the frequency.

Kids will eat every dime you earn fo rthe rest of your life and make you buy life insurance. And you won't mind.

You will not be indifferent to your own children. I still do not go ga ga over other people's children.

Tough for the teenager. When they start buying the lights and food, they can make unilateral decisions. This is the first true head against wall encounter with "Life is not 'fair'". Learning to deal with this is part of becoming a grown human being.

All adolescents are curs and banes to the existence of everyone they interact with. Good thing it only lasts about 4 years...

Sleep is for the weak! And for during school hours and nap time.

Too many humans is not a problem. Thinning the herd is done with genetics. You needen't bother. When you decide to breed, you might not be able to. And you eggs are on a time clock after age 30, no matter what the celebrity fertility docs can do for about $100,000. If you have that to gamble with, hang tight!

You will get over that or die or go on meds. There is no such thnig as alone once the kid is here.

All teenagers are disgusting, rude, and mooches. But only if you let them develop as such. That is where parenting comes into play.
Many people are unhappy. Many of those unhappy people think having a child will make them happy. They are wrong.
You're my psychic twin, aren't you?
If you're wondering why you still don't want kids, don't bother. The other myth they tell us is that a few years after you've popped out the first one, you'll forget the pain of labor and crave another baby. Ha.
It might be tough to translate to a single person the bliss of the simple things kids do that make up for all the fantastic, pleasurable things that I'd no doubt be getting more of if not for being a parent, but getting to see those things every day is truly better than anything else I've felt.
Your list of reasons sounds exactly like the one I have recited to people many times (with the exception of the physical horror, which doesn't really bother me - I'd kind of like to be pregnant, I think). I don't understand the urge, though it's clearly real for the majority of people. I also don't understand the intense joy children bring to their parents, even though that's also clearly real. I probably don't understand the depths of the misery either. I'm fine with not understanding any of that, but I will watch responses to your post to see if anyone offers an explanation that twigs with me.

Would rate this several times if I could.
Nobody can fully explain to you the merits and demerits of it all, however here are my observations for thought...

1) How many parents that you know, after having a child, opt to have another one?

My experience is "lots of them" (if not MOST). Ergo, despite some bitching, most parents enjoy parenthood enough to want MORE of it.

2) From your perspective you see only the outside view of parenthood - tiredness, busyness, etc. What you don't see is the FUN that parents have (much of it at home) and no one can ever adequately describe for you the LOVE they feel for their kids (Just as I doubt your describing your love for your boyfriend/husband could make me feel warm and fuzzy about him).

3) If you don't want kids, don't have kids. Be suspicious of those who attempt to evangelize you regarding anything whether it be religion, Amway or kids.

However, keep in mind that even YOU can not imagine how you would feel about kids. I was never particularly interested in having kids and I'd never particular liked being around other people's kids - and yet, now that I have two of my own I love them more than life itself (sorry for the cliche) and believe that they having those kids are the best thing I've ever done in my life (sorry again).

4) The biological clock is real for many women. Don't be surprised if some day you have a burning desire to have kids.

5) And as long as we're looking at other people's lives and judging them, i might as well throw in that I know a few 40 - 60 year olds without kids and despite the fact that they go on a few more vacations than I do, their lives look pretty empty to me and i tend to feel a bit sorry for them.

6) We live in a me - me - me society. We thrive on personal freedom. We tend to be materialistic and hedonistic to the extent that our incomes allow us. And yet, even with ubiquitous birth control, probably 95% of married couples CHOOSE to have kids. Hmmm. I wonder why that is?

6) I personally believe that when you really think about the human condition, what makes us thrive and what ultimately drives us is the need to give and receive love and to feel like we have meaning in our lives. The pursuit of almost all other goals, whether it be money, travel, career, etc. spring forth from an underlying desire for these things.

And kids provide us with the opportunity to give and receive love and acceptance, and lend a sense of meaning to our lives.

...anyway - that's my .02 on the subject. : )
I'm not sure I can articulate why I had kids nearly as well as you articulated why you don't, but hell, they sure do provide good blog fodder. I think I'd be much better at telling you why I'm glad I've done it after the fact. And I'd also validate pretty much every reason you gave for not doing it. Rated.
I realized that my long rambling comment sounded like gibberish.
I wrote a post responding in a format that makes sense and cross posted a link to here.

The thing parents won't tell you is that their lives had no meaning compared to the experience of having a child. Even fullfilled, happy people get an exponential humanity boost when parenting works out for them. It can also ruin your life if it goes bad or you are not suited to it. It is the biggest gamble you will ever make with the highest possible outcome AND potential backfire.

But that is like explaining sex to a virgin. And Parents know how the conceptualized it before and after, which non-parents do not. And that is whay they don't talk abou this. They know that outside the experience, you cannot understand it.

At least you are thinking about it instead of screwing in the backseat of a car at 15 and hoping that virgind can't get pregnant. Good thinking!
This was a great post because you expanded from the expected complaints about children and being a parent.

My very long story, in brief, is: I was told at an early age that I could not get pregnant, so I didn't expect to be a parent. I lost three serious relationships with wonderful men because they desperately wanted me to have children. My husband said he didn't care about that. Skip ahead 10 years. Despite contraception, I became pregnant at 41. My husband left.

I decided to go through with the pregnancy, even though I share many of your misgivings, am pro-choice and lost my husband. Even though I had never even had a job babysitting.

Everyone tried to talk me out of it. I heard that it was a bad investment, I'll never have a sex life, sleep, fillintheblank. I got zero support from all but a couple of my friends. Everybody dropped me because I now had a baby. I don't have to bring him to your home, we can meet somewhere else. You can still call me because he isn't awake all the time, but, no.

Having been on both sides, it's not that bad. I don't know what the future holds and I guess if you're looking for a guarantee of happiness, there isn't one, either way. Happiness is within you (or not) whether or not you're a parent.
Does having children ruin your life?

It all depends on what you want out of life. You shouldn't have children unless you want the experience of being completely responsible for raising and nurturing another human being. You shouldn't have children unless you are prepared for years of hard work and sacrifice. If it's what you want, it can be the most rewarding and fulfilling experience possible.

Why do people have children? For the same reason they have sex: instinct. Evolutionarily, our only purpose is to reproduce.
You've answered your own question. Just by virtue of the fact that you don't want them means you probably shouldn't. There's no right or wrong, imho.
OMFG I would give this post 5 thumbs if I could. You perfectly articulate why I'm not exactly interested in having children, or, at the VERY best, ambivalent. Such humorous, yet dense and beautiful stuff. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I absolutely relate to seeing friends have kids and then seem less vivacious and happy and fun and yadda yadda yadda than they'd been before. This probably makes me an asshole, but like you, I wonder if they're lying about kids being the bestestest thing ever due to denial, like, "I wish I hadn't gotten myself into this, so I'll just pretend from now on that it's the shizznit."

Loved the analogy to an arranged marriage--spot on. Although, of course, parenting does a great deal to mold a lot the characteristics of a child and you CAN relinquish parental rights if you're okay with a lot of state intervention in your life forever after. Anyway, fantastic post, thank you so much. Rated.
Like epriddy, I had a child by accident at 36. I would never say that someone's life lacks meaning, or joy because they don't have kids. But I could never have predicted the joy and meaning my son has brought to my life.

First of all, like all intimate relationships, most of the joy you experience doesn't tend to happen in public. It was easy for me to judge my friends and their kids, I wasn't exactly crawling into bed with them, reading them bed time stories.

Yeah it's a lot of work. But I suspect/hope you do some kind of meaningful work that not everyone envies or understands. Stress doesn't always equal misery, if you believe the stress you are suffering is worth it.

But here's the thing I really didn't understand: I can see far more clearly, I think, some of the mistakes, and some of the gifts my parents gave me, in ways that I didn't understand until started living with some of the decisions they had to make.

I certainly never understood how my parents could love me all that time I was sure I was driving them crazy, and being a horrible teenager. But now I know that they did. Because kids are not programmed to love their kids unconditionally. But parents generally are, even when they're not doing a very good job of expressing it. Having a kid, and knowing how easy it is to forgive them, has made it easier to forgive myself for all the atrocious and immature behaviour that I was guilty of.

You did ask, so I'm going to say that my life would not have had the depth and richness that it has without my son. I won't go as far as to say that your life won't. But if you're debating it, I would take the risk.
I loved not having children. And I love having a child.

Being a parent is hard, hard work. Also, I think sometimes in our society, when the woman is expected to do most of the childcare, when she had different expectations, maybe of actually getting help with that, (not that this happens all the time, of course, there are great dads out there but there's still some sexist crap that happens), it can make for a bitter person, which is not good for childcare.

There are times when I weep. Times when I want to pull out my hair. But you know, I had those same times when I was childless. So, that's not different. I gained a new appreciation of my mother and father. I never knew I could love someone so much. Basically, it's pretty fucking wonderful.

But it is damned hard.

My question back would be what is the answer for which you are looking? It seems very much like the childless answers please you more, but you seem to dismiss the child-yes answers as trite or meaningless. In other words, you're ready to knock them down.

I promise I'm not being argumentative. More than anything, I think we have to do what's right for us in life. If you don't want to have children, for god's sake, Do Not do it. It is not for everyone, and it does not immediately confer sainthood if you do have them. There are some shitty-ass parents out there, and even the best of us make mistakes. It's just something that we can do ... have children.

But I had a child for the same reason I have friends, family, wish for significant others, have a job that I care about, etc. It is part of what I wanted in life. And it is more than I expected. I love her. I love her, and that experience is worth a thousand sleepless nights and the loss of going to drink at the bar at will.

But, it is not for everyone. And rightly so. The pressure to have kids is ridiculous.
Go back and read epriddy's response. She is dead-on. People who have kids know the before and after. I have often thought about this, whenever my sister or others bring up the advantages of no children. I think to myself that I know their context but they do not know mine. That doesn't mean all parents think it's worth it, just that the overwhelming ones who do probably know what they are talking about.

The other thing I wanted to say is this, and if you don't have kids you won't like it, but it's the Honest-to-God Truth as I know it: When you are a parent, you are a wiser person. I can't tell you how much enlightenment parenting gives one, primarily from all the humble pie one eats after having so many opinions about personality and behaviorism and nature/nurture and religion and every other philosophical thing you've ever waxed on about. Nothing, and I mean nothing philosophical that you have ever thought in your life doesn't come under scrutiny and get reinforced or ditched after having children. Your entire worldview undergoes a revisiting, and by definition, you are now wiser than those who did not experience both worldviews. I would never say this out loud to people I know in real life, but it is simply true. Ask anyone with kids.
For a long time I didn't think I wanted children, but after I was married for a few years, my deep love for my husband has motivated me to have kids with him. I don't want just any child, my child, I want OUR child. I want to go through the experience of creating and raising another human being with HIM. And, many of the incredibly difficult things about motherhood (pregnancy, lack of sleep, screaming babies, poopy diapers) are much better when you have a PARTNER to work with you.
I don't think people who can't adequately describe why they like parenthood are being deliberately deceitful, or are hiding dark secrets. They might not even be inarticulate people. In fact, I think there are a lot of experiences in one's life that words fall short of capturing. Heck, no one's adequately described skydiving to me enough to make me want to do it. Yet, nearly everyone I've ever met who jumped out of an airplane loved the experience.

Society (maybe even biology?) does seem to push people into asking the question "Why don't I want children?" and defending their answer. My goodness, there's a logical list a mile long for not having children. If nothing else, the shear number of people on earth is a fantastic reason not to make another. Someone, somewhere has got you covered. There are few, if any, logical justifications for childbearing. In choosing to remain childless, you have the weight of perfectly excellent reasoning behind you, don't let society bully you!

Of course, lots of us who do have children are enormously happy with the outcome (though not for logical reasons) and the issues that bother some parents (e.g., roller coaster life, lack of solitude) just don't hang us up as much. I believe it's simply a difference of personality and style.
Having children ruins your life only if you're an asshole to begin with - which is most people. Children are an extension of yourself.

But it is also the most natural of all human acts. Responsibility is a gift. It's only our artificial society that penalizes being human that makes it seem not so.

And as a side note: methinks you do protest too much :)
Believe me, gal, I understand more than you may think. I waited until I was 38 before I had my son. And it is not all roses, and never will be--especially for me, as my son is autistic, and will be for the rest of his life. But, this is the way it works: you wonder the whole time you're pregnant what the hell you've done, how you could have been so stupid, and how you're going to get out of this. Then, the first time you look into his face and see your own, it's all over. You would kill for him.

Most parents want to kill their kids some times, and most don't. It's genetic. It's how we've come to number 6 and 3/4 billion people. If you want that kind of love, no matter what kind of "arranged marriage" you get, then have kids. If you don't, don't. It's not an easy question, and as you've discovered, for nearly the first time in human history, we have a choice about the answer.

I wish you peace when you find your answer.
Hi there, I hope you're appropriately flattered that I registered on Open Salon just so I could comment on this post. ;)

I'm not going to try to convince you to have kids. That's not my business. But I do see reasoning like what is in your post fairly often from people who don't have kids and don't want them, and I think it contains some misapprehensions I'd like to try to correct.

For one thing, the idea that I see echoed in several comments, of friends having kids and being less vivacious and fun-loving or whatever. I'd like to stick my neck out and say that actually what happens is that your friends become less entertaining *for you* and more generally responsible. I mean no matter how upstanding you are pre-kids (and I was pretty boring) your priorities change. It doesn't mean you're enjoying life less, but it does mean you're enjoying it in different ways, and likely in more private ways. Just because someone isn't the "life of the party" or going out to whatever kind of social events are the standard in your circle (concerts, marches, bars, clubs, whatever) doesn't mean that their life has been reduced to a dreary sludge of gruel. When people are unable to see this, I am kind of puzzled--it seems somewhat adolescent to define "fun" as only being out and about on the town being "vivacious."

After I had kids I quickly learned which of my friends knew me as a person and who I knew as a person, they were in for the long haul. And I learned which friends simply found me "entertaining"--witty, funny, silly, whatever. They faded away pretty quickly, and they probably thought that I had "ruined my life" with kids.

My kids aren't teenagers yet, but I will say, while everyone goes through their difficult phases and hormonal moods and whatever, there's a lot a parent can do to mitigate the things you fear. Recently we've come up with this idea that teens need to be basically raised by their peers, which amounts to nothing better than abandoning them and letting them be raised by wolves. The less you succumb to this, the less likely you are to have an ill-mannered creep living with you. And yes, it's still possible to have standards and rules. You can say no. You can set limits. In fact, you should.

All the other stuff you describe, well, it's kind of missing the point IMHO. I could make owning a dog sound equally as horrid and arduous and make a post that made it sound like the only person who would ever contemplate taking on such a burden must be some kind of idiotic masochist. You simply can't describe a relationship of love in terms of how much money it costs, for one thing. And "asking to be born"? Are you kidding me? Do you wish you hadn't been born? Do most people? Obviously not. It seems like overthinking to an extreme.

I didn't have children to keep me company in old age, to pay anyone's social security, or to watch "mini me" grow up. I had the first one because I wanted a child. Because I wanted to find out who this child would be, and to give her the best chance I could at a good life--which does NOT mean a pony and a private school and material spoiling, not in the slightest. And I had the second one because I wanted neither one of them to be alone in their generation, and because I realized that every time you spin the wheel you get a different person as the outcome, and I was curious to meet the next one. I have love to give, and I wanted to give it to them. I'm a human being and I haven't given up on humanity yet. Because raising them is my calling. There are lots of reasons, most of which I am sure a devoted childfree person could shrug off as "narcissistic" or "silly," but they are real and profound reasons for many people.
I recently decided that I want to have kids (I'm 26, and very happily married). There are a lot of things about parenting that I don't really understand, but I really want to. I'd like to open myself up to a new kind of love and sense of purpose. Having a very physically affectionate relationship with my husband has made me think that I like that kind of love that I can feel in my body, and I want more more more!

As for kids being the death of relationships, my husband and I are just getting through a life-changing illness, and it's been a maturing experience for both of us (I was the one who was sick). If we can do that, and all we get out of it is grief, physical pain and fear, I think a tough experience that we get a kid out of sounds like something we can handle.
Lissa R: Your comment was eloquent in the extreme, and I hope you stick around and create a few posts. If you do, let me know!
" they masturbate all over your house" almost made me spit out my diet coke! Get that thought out of my mind (I'm a father of 2 boys)!!!!! LOL
Anyways- a few points:
1. One thing tht is true for me is that- Before we had kids- our house was kind of big, empty and quiet. After we have the 2 little ones- the whole house just more or less came alive. The bustle and hustle and yelling and laughter just fills the whole house up. As we mature, we gradually lose our sense of wonder and exciteability. We are not as easily amused. The kids brought laughter and giddiness back into our lives. I needed that.
2. I never played with or held anyone else's babies before we had our own (babies always cried whenever I tried to pick them up). The funny thing is, after we had ours- not only did I enjoy our own kids- now I enjoy playing with other people's kids too. I enjoy seeing other people's babies. I make faces at strangers' babies. I keep an eye out for other people's toddlers to help keep them out of danger. In short- I feel a lot more 'connected' to the rest of humanity now.
3. From your photos- you probably think that having babies is all about dealing with screaming and crying and pooping etc. There is plenty of that. But when the baby finally falls asleep in your arms after a solid 20 minute struggle. You will not believe the happiness that radiates all throughout your body as you stare down at the perfectly formed angelic little creature sleeping peacefully cradled in your arms. I don't care how bad a day or a life you've had. At that moment you will be swept away with a happiness that hasn't been matched by any known drug.
4. Sure- the boy might grow up to be a disappointment and an asshole. Your daughter may hate you for life and send you her therapy bills. BUT, for the moment, when the little pug-nosed baby is asleep in your arms, the possibilities are still wide open and endless. Isn't that what life is all about? Possibilites?
As someone already stated, its like describing sex to a virgin.

As far as to "why" people have kids? Thats like asking what is pleasure? . . . . everyone is going to have a different response.

Since when did having kids become something that would "ruin" one's life? Hell, when I think of things that would ruin my life . . . having kids just isn't on the list.

If one must ask if "having kids" will ruin their life . . . . they need to do some serious reflection on whether or not they should.

First, I agree with everyone who said, "If you don't want children, *really* want children, don't have them."

That said, my biological children are grown and I can safely say that the horrible things you fear have not come to pass in my life. The physical parts, far from being revolting, were life-changing in very positive ways. My relationship with my husband is joyful and serene. We didn't die of lack of sleep. We weren't tied down. Our careers didn't suffer. The toddlers weren't terrors. The teenagers weren't disrespectful and selfish. We didn't run out of money. We never regretted having them, and now they're productive adults whom I greatly enjoy as independent human beings.

Short answer: For those who want children, there's nothing better, but that's not ever going to be a reason to change your mind.
if i had never had my daughter, i never would have gotten to meet her. i was 17. i chose to bear and keep her out of sympathy for her bad timing. i never seemed to be convenient to my family either. by some lovely serendipity we got along most of the time and grew up together. i breast fed her because it was the one thing my mother couldn't do--that way i got to be mom-in-charge. the hardest thing was having to move back into the parental home for almost 4 years until i was financially able to take care of us. ok--i'm not really answering the question. parts of it were perfectly awful--i went straight from childhood into adulthood with no in between. and i never did have another (childhood or child) even though i thought about it. i respect your choice--either way. sometimes it is just a matter of playing the hand that you are dealt as well as you know how. i have some regrets, but none about being lucky enough to be a mother to my daughter.
OK, what most people say is "Well, having kids is hard. BUT IT'S WORTH IT." This seems to me to be the most flagrant example of cognitive dissonance I've ever heard. Spoken by one who was so compelled by biology that she adopted TWO kids after having fried her tubes good in the 1970s. If I'd gotten over that biological thing, I think I could have been quite happy child free. But then again, there are some extenuating circumstances (see blog). Good luck, whatever. Life is big.
When I was young I wasn't sure if I wanted kids. I was never particularly excited by babies. Now that I have a kid I know for sure that I never want to have kids (oops). People who say raising children is wonderful are lying. Don't do it. At least I had the sense to stop at one. I will never understand why you would ever have more than one.
Low energy, introvert . . . that describes me. I had a high-energy, low IQ kid. Oops. I recommend that you only have kids if you have a big extended family that lives nearby. Friends, bless them, come and go. Family will disburse the heavy load, and make sure that your kid has at least one relative who understands them. Oddly enough, I don't wish I'd never had kids. From my vantage point at age 63, I wish I'd had three or four, so that one or two would have been normal.
Wow. We have one 9 year old and my husband and I are having a total blast. I can't imagine life without this child. I get wistful about each year that passes, knowing that stage is over. And it was so much fun.

But here's the truth. You do not know, you cannot know, what parenthood will bring. It could be heartwrenching. It could be wonderful. Marriage is somewhat similar. You can't know what life will bring.

If you are a control freak, if you can't imagine giving yourself to something you can't finally control or determine: don't do it. A child needs your love and loyalty, no matter what. If you see it as a spiritual decision, the consequence of which you cannot fully know from the outset, but that you hope you will rise to meet, then I think you are on the right track.

A woman I knew told me childbirth wasn't that bad. I believed her. And she was right. But in this I know I was lucky. Again, you can't know what kind of experience you'll get. 36 hours of back labor-- that's bad. Garden variety delivery? Not much to talk about.

I became a parent a bit later than most. And I only have one. Maybe this contributes to the ease. I don't rile as easily as I used to. And one is far more manageable than 2 or more. And research shows, it doesn't make them horrible and selfish. That's all in the parenting.

Good luck to you.
I love Lissa R’s comment.

No one should tell you to have kids if you don’t want them. If you have this much doubt, you probably shouldn’t.
It does ruin your life.
And it is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to you.
You have to contain both within you, which, I think, and I am definitely biased, makes you a wiser person.
It is not something to be taken lightly. But I have NO regrets, as fucking impossible as it seems some times.
You are really the only one that can answer this because it doesn't matter what I think or anyone else thinks. This is an intensely personal decision. It was never a question for me. I love having 4 children but honestly it guarantees a life of worry and concern. My favorite parenting quote is:

"Their hearts were wrung with anguish, the anguish of having children...a vulnerability as astounding as the capacity for love that parenting brings."

It's the double edged sword...anguish and love. Good luck with your decision.
I have had the same experience with a lot of people not really owning up to the real truth of the situation being less than spectacular in all aspects. And the occasional truth-teller. I'm with you on this btw, I am older by a decade so I don't get as many comments except for the occasional "don't you think you're missing something?" Honestly, no. It's not for everyone, but most people in our society don't want to accept that.
I won't repeat the joys of parenting in terms many have so eloquently described. And I would never minimize the tough parts -- as someone wise told me when I was pregnant with my first child, "No matter what anyone tells you, it's 10 times worse than you can ever imagine, and 10 times better than you can ever imagine."

I thought instead I'd tell you why I like myself better as a person after raising 3 children who are all now in their early 20s, and many of those years on my own. In other words, what I got out of being a parent. I can't imagine the person I'd be otherwise.

I learned patience I never thought I had

I became a far more tolerant human being

I learned how to be a teacher and how to better share what knowledge and talents I have

I became less self-centered and more interested in the welfare others

I learned that joy is found in very small moments

I learned how to multi-task to the nth degree (and become a better worker)

I learned how to see things from many points of view and be an effective mediator

I became someone who others can better rely on and a better friend

I learned how to just keep going even when I didn’t want to because others depended on me – and in doing so realized I can overcome anything

I learned how to love better than I ever did before
I was a person who grew up in an abusive home. When I got married, I didn't think I'd ever want children, until that one day, five years into my marriage, when I suddenly did. I ended up having three of them, each one planned for and wanted.

I love my children and I'm happy that I have them. Truly. Having children managed to break my cycle of self-absorption and has shown me different facets of love that I'd not be able to experience had I remained childless. Another bonus is that I'm now privileged to see the world through the eyes of my children. There is much that I missed the first time through. The view is fresher and more hopeful than what I usually see with my cynical adult eyes and I value this perspective as a gift.

Are there days when I want to run away? Yes, but it's not because I don't love them or because I feel that I made a mistake in having them. It's because too much of anything can be overwhelming. Too much work makes us want a vacation; it does not make us sorry we have a job. Too much alone time makes us crave companionship; it does not make us never want to be alone again. Being in a crowd makes us crave solitude; it does not make us want to never be around people again.

It's all about balance. I will have plenty of alone time once they are grown, and I'm sure that I'll miss these busy days terribly.

Is there one answer, whether to have kids or not, that's right for everyone? Of course not! Each person has to choose what's right for her/himself and there's plenty of room for both parents and non-parents. If you have the slightest inclination that having kids isn't your thing, then don't have them, no matter what anyone else says. I'm a strong believer in that people who don't want children should not have them. Every child deserves to be born wanted and loved.

There's a hint of superiority in your post which I'm hoping is unintentional. No one choice is better than the other. I would never want anyone who'd made a different choice from me feel bad about it. I would certainly hope that no one would want to make me feel bad about mine.
Ack! I should have proofread my comment before posting it. My apologies for the atrocious grammar.
Okay, I'm loving the post and comments. As someone who is currently wrestling with this particular issue I'm happy for your pondering aloud, here. And I love getting to know my fellow bloggers through their responses. Epriddy, I thought you spoke it well, gal.
So, thanks parents. Keep talking. Dharma's eavesdropping over she drinks Proseco w/ Stellaaaaaa.:)
Children don't ruin your life, they change it. Whether it's for the better or worse is up to you.
I just think some people are born to make more people - case in point my cousin who thought of nothing but babies when we were little. She has 3 gorgeous little girls and is a well-to-do say at home moom. At some level I envy her life, it's ideal for raising kids.

I have no real interest in being a parent. I'm in my mid thirties and frequently see babies and think, "yay a baby, I want to hold it." But I always want to give them back. It's possible to like, even fall in love with babies, but not want to actually raise them. I think of my nieces and nephew, I adore them but am delighted they live with other people.

I'm just as confused as you...
I appreciate the genuine answers to my questions.

Some have questioned my motives or what kind of answer I’m looking for. I suppose the post just reflects my profound ambivalence. I am not “devotedly childfree” – I’m confused. This whole topic really eats at me. It takes up too much of my mental space. And since the people at Open Salon are bright and articulate, I figured I might get some good answers.

I have no personal desire, urge, or drive to have kids. I’m happy with my life and it doesn’t feel like anything is missing. And a lot of times, as I wrote, it doesn’t look good from the outside. It looks bad. But everyone else tells me I’m wrong – including some very smart people that I very much respect – and that makes me seriously doubt myself. The social pressure is strong and effective. Maybe they’re right!

The posts from ePriddy, vera war, Juliet Waters, odetteroulette, Lissa, and others who didn’t want kids but had one anyway and are now deeply glad that they did just increase my ambivalence. The picture I’m getting is that there is no rational reason to want kids, but nature will ensure that once you do, you’ll be really happy about it (at least most of the time).

Or, as my mother puts it, nature designed it so that parents fiercely love their kids – because if they didn’t, they would murder them.

As Carman pointed out, this is a modern conundrum because in the past, humans didn’t need to desire children. They just needed to desire sex – the kids would come whether you wanted them or not. Now we have birth control and the ability to choose.

But for women like me who aren’t particularly attracted to children, this represents a real problem if the maternal instinct only kicks in after the fact.

One of the problems is that I am pathologically risk-averse. I am the polar opposite of the type of person who just assumes things will be okay. When I imagine having a child, I don’t picture a cute toddler. I picture a meth-addicted pregnant teenager. I imagine the worst-case scenario.

As far as the title of my post and kids “ruining” your life – I was inspired by the recent Salon piece written by the mother of the autistic son, who was hoarding sleeping pills in case she needed to kill herself. That piece really scared me.

Last, I will fully admit that I am an immature person. Of course, the problem with immaturity is that immature people don’t want to be immature.
I mean -- we don't want to be MATURE. :)
Your friend who said 1s and 10s got it right about kids. I remember the low lows and the high highs and the rest is muddling through.

I say that and after a humbling several years that make me question who I am or what I am about I will go to sleep and see my little girl smiling next to me while she goes to sleep, I will kiss her forehead and she will say, "I love you mommy" and that is what I need to go to sleep and do what I will need to do tomorrow.

Before I had kids a friend who had told me that if her husband was hit by a bus she would be sad but go on. She said if her kid was hit by a bus she would wish the bus would hit her too because she couldnto live without her kid.

I thought she was nuts.

Then I had my two daughters. They can effortlessly make my day, month, year, and just as effortlessly send me into doubt and fear I have never known.

1s and 10s. He was right.
I think it IS actually like the marriage analogy you made. It's instinctual and emotional, not necessarily rational. If you need to make a list of pros/cons about marrying someone rather than just knowing in your heart it's the right thing, then it's probably not for you.

Why have kids? hmmm....I can't give you a list of pros/cons and yeah, there are parts that suck (I have a Tween just now) but the visceral, emotional experiences of bonding with them -

holding an infant, nursing them, watching them take their first steps and first falls, smelling the baby smell, touching their little naked feet, seeing them learn to read, ask questions, etc. etc.

It is not a decision one makes using a rational plus/minus system.

I do think it should be a decision, and it is helpful to have a support structure in place, but I think it's one of those things you just know.
actually, i know women who aren't comfy with the idea of another person growing in their tummy and working their way out like a road company version of alien; they adopted and love their little tykes just as much as any other mother. that's basically how all us men work it, anyway.
I'm 40 and childless, not so much by choice, more because it just never happened and I never wanted children enough to try harder. I would have a child now if I found the right guy who was ready and we both wanted to do it together, but unfortunately my last relationship just went up in flames. At this point I'm mostly resigned to the fact that it's very unlikely that I'll ever have children.

Fortunately for me, I love being an aunt! I have that genetic link to 6 other humans. I've had a hand in shaping the lives of 6 other people that I care tremendously about, and I know things about them that their parents don't know. I don't feel a huge loss at not having my own, but one always wonders how things would be different if we had made different choices in life.

I think you're trying to apply logic to something completely illogical. I could apply the same criteria to having a relationship and prove that because a guy may cheat on you and leave his dirty socks around that you should never enter into any relationship. After all, no one would ever willingly sign up for that either. At some point you just have to decide if the possible benefits outweigh the possible risks.

I applaud you for thinking seriously about this and for having the courage to write about it. I will also quote someone I work with who told me that "you never realize what true love is and how deeply you can love someone until you look into your child's eyes."
Actually, I did want kids. The opportunity just didn't present itself until very late. And then I wasn't ambivalent at all; I was delighted. No biological urge 'made' me like it.

If you don't want kids, don't let people influence you otherwise.
Wow from me, too, but for different reasons. You REALLY know all those people with kids who wish they didn't have them and are so unhappy? Yikes. That's creepy. Because today people CAN choose to have them and should CHOOSE. You sound like you should not have them. Those people here who don't have them sound like they made the right choice.

Me? I chose to HAVE them and I have never ever regretted it one day of my life. I didn't lose much sleep either. My kids were good sleepers, good babies, calm. I was a calm mom. Loved the baby part, really got into it. The birth? It was what it was, even though I had an emergency C that was pretty rough with the first and so had to have a second C with the second. It was not all a bed of roses getting pregnant the second time, there were the usual childhood illnesses, some teenaged traumas, but my husband (at the time) and I lived the life we wanted, we traveled, we lived overseas, I wrote several novels, published stories, managed to have friends, raised my kids, and they are nice, good looking smart kids. I like them as well as love them and we are close and learning how to forge new relationships at each age they get to. Do we yell and scream? Sure. Do I get pissed? Yup. Do I get tired to driving my 16 year old girl around because she doesn't yet have her license? Yes. Would I have money money had I not had kids? Well, duh. But I chose to have kids and I knew what I was getting into and I adore them and wouldn't trade a second of it. In fact, I wish I had started younger and had been able to have more.

So do they ruin your life? Not mine. They made me a better person, a better writer, and added joy and beauty to every day. Plus they have made me laugh so many times I can't even count.
I am not a parent. Someday when I can give more of myself I will be, but that time is not yet here.

I do have 163 children though. And they are all teenagers! I am a first year teacher. And let me tell you sometimes the job is thankless. The students do not cooperate, the parents constantly demand answers or special treatment, and I have yet to meet a supportive administrator who lessens my burden rather than increases it. This has quite honestly been the most rough stressful year of my life. But it has also been one of the most rewarding. I have never been more certain about wanting to do anything in my life. I mean, great challenging tasks usually have the greatest rewards.

Each and everyone of them has wormed his/her way into my heart. I stay awake at night thinking about them, hoping they succeed in whatever their endeavor is, worrying about whatever hurt they may experience.

My students make me laugh as I have never before been able to laugh.

When a student comes up bursting to tell you something grand that has happened. Or comes in needing to confess something that is eating at them. I feel trusted in a way I never have before.

When they come up and say "thank you", or "that was amazing", or simply "I love this class" I feel appreciated and valued.

Or simply when their faces light up with understanding - I feel like I have been of service. That I served some purpose. That I did something worthwhile.

When parents come in and say "When my child talks about school they talk about your class." or "My kid is talking about majoring in physics. I've never seen him so excited about anything." I feel like I've been an inspiration to someone.

Do I resent them? Sometimes. Sometimes I know they don't know how much of my life I spend on them and they do wound me greatly. But they have also taught me patience and tolerance and quite honestly love in a way I have never experienced it. This usually comes from the child that gives you headaches. I've learned if there is a child I don't like - it just means I don't know them well enough. And so I go out of my way to learn about them and guess what? They always prove to be amazing individuals.

I learn more from them everyday then I ever learned going to school.

And watching them grow and mature because of my tutelage is really rather amazing too. Its quite enough to make me proud not only of myself, but more strongly pride in them and all that they've accomplished.

I imagine parenting is much the same only with more stress and more laughter and love. Parents truly are the ultimate mentor.

Personally, I've never been attaches to things or places. I love a break and vacation as much as the next person, but I've had just as much fun playing at home as going anywhere extravagant. What I love the most about life is the people that are in it. My family and my friends are my favorite things in this world. Forming close bonds with people is what I find the most satisfying. And I cannot imagine ever forming a closer bond than with a child that I get to spend years and years getting to know.
As one last comment..... the thing about being immature or not? If you are truly ready to put someone else first before yourself, then you might be able to have kids. If not, fuggedaboudit. I mean it. I know some pretty selfish people who I am really glad don't have kids. Because there is no way they could ever think about anyone else but themselves. My mom, who had 3 kids, was one of them. Ooops. You gotta know who you are and what you are willing to do. Sound harsh? Maybe that is why those people are so damned unhappy. They really didn't want to give anything up. I dunno. But that is the saddest part of your tale.
First of all: This is an absolutely great post. I too, as a male, feel the pressures of why I don't have kids or see any interest in raising children. I think that Kryptogal has given the matter a lot of thought and seems to me, she is totally rational in her thinking with no undeserved "superiority".
As far as the other comments, I hear a lot of people saying that it is a rewarding experience and perhaps they do know better than I about that. But I cannot submit to the claim that "[people who have had children] know both sides" more completely than I can know theirs. That is impossible. First because once you have had the child you cannot know what it would have been like if you didn't. (i.e. if you had not been in the hospital giving birth, you very likely could have been somewhere else where you would have had some equally life changing experience.) You know what you life was like simply before and after and nothing about what it would have been like if you had not chosen that path.
"life is a road with many paths to take, and every path is curved so that a traveler may not see where that path ceases."
If having children is a gamble which many comments (both for and against) have given credit to, let's examine the risks, picture this: You are in Las Vegas betting on roulette black or red ( good experience or bad one). Now the dealer asks if you are in or out. would you take the bet provided that the outcome of playing maybe: fantastic, "bestest" thing ever, great, good, ok, moderate, bad, worse, terrible "worstest". And don't forget that the outcome whatever it is is going to be will last at least 18 years (if all goes well). Would you take it? I wouldn't, but I am not the gambling type. It also seems relevant to mention that anyone who has a child, runs just as much risk of producing the next Stalin, Hitler, or Manson, as they do producing the next Mother Teresa, Ghandi, or maybe even (so I have heard stories of) dare I say Jesus.
But I digress. I think that the moral of my rant is that "to each [their] own." And really if you want kids and you know other people that don't share you enthusiasm, please don't ask us if we think we are missing something. A lot people who don't have kids, don't want them and have given it much thought, or they aren't ready to do it, or they can't. So if you are curious ask in this manner "do you think you ever will?", and leave it at that, if you are open to a good conversation we will tell you why we don't or can't. We might know (or at least think so,) what we are missing, and are glad for it.
Thanks for the welcome, Lainey, we'll see if I figure this thing out...

I apologize, Kryptogal, if my comment seemed too prickly at all. I think what may have put me in a prickly frame of mind was the whole idea of "ruining" and the insinuations that you don't quite believe parents who say it is worthwhile are being honest with you. No one likes to be disbelieved like that, especially about something so central in one's life.

Anyhow, my life wasn't so perfect before I had kids, so what is there to "ruin" anyhow? I guess some people just have perfect lives that wouldn't do to be changed at all, but that sure wasn't me. I had (and have) a great relationship with my spouse, sure. I was at least moderately content with what I did during the days, and found interesting enough things to do at night. I had pets to play with, and enough money to spend on books and cds and movies for myself, and lunch out a couple times per week. It wasn't bad at all, but it wasn't so absolutely perfect that I was devestated to think that it might change a lot after a child entered the picture. I had problems, and while I never would have told you this at the time as I had no way of knowing, a lot of my problems were caused by things I had to shed when I became a parent: self-absorption, caring too much what "people think," being afraid to use my own moral judgement, to name just a few.

What does it mean to "ruin" a life? I have, in my lifetime, made some drastic errors and experienced some traumas, so I think I can discuss this with some credibility. I was acutely suicidal in my early 20s. If I had actually killed myself, that would have ruined my life for sure. I got in with a bad crowd shortly thereafter. If I had started using crystal meth when they did, that may have ruined my life. (Instead I evicted the bad apple roommate and lost all my "friends" in a week.) I did something unspeakably stupid in the name of "experimentation" around the same time, and for a long time thought my life *had* been ruined, but it turned out, it wasn't. I put the episode behind me, somehow, with a lot of embarrassment and dues I am paying to this day. I was abused as a child, and all but totally rejected by my family once I grew up. Still, my life hasn't been ruined.

In light of these kind of near-misses, the idea that these little squirts sitting in my living room playing with their toys and nibbling on snacks could have "ruined" anything seems kind of odd. They turned everything upside down, yes. I am such a radically different person than who I was 5 years ago, if 2004 me passed 2009 me on the street she'd probably sneer and shudder. I don't get out as much as I used to, I dress more conservatively, and I have a "daytime" playlist with no swear word lyrics on it, and I don't have as much sex. Sure. But it takes a lot more than that to "ruin" me!

The fear of change was massive, yes. As soon as I got the positive test with my first I was so gripped with fear I had made a mistake I cried for hours, could barely eat or sleep. But deep down I knew it was right. The week before she was due I cried and cried, thinking of all the things the husband and I used to do that we wouldn't be able to anymore, afraid that in losing the status quo I would lose him and lose myself. We're still here, and now his eyes look out from under my bangs on this strange and wonderful creature who is exactly like both of us and still completely different from both of us. She was born with a disability and had to stay in intensive care and that really drove home for me that she wasn't just something I wanted or someone I cared about, she was my life, my own heart, and that if she died, a part of me would never walk out of that hospital. When I was pregnant with her little sister, I used to cry myself to sleep every night fearing I was ruining her life by bringing this interloper into the picture. Now they love each other as fiercely as I love them, and seeing *that* relationship unfold is sure to be the greatest joy of my life.

I don't know what else to say. This can't be grasped reductively. It's poetry, and religion.
Man, I could have written EXACTLY this post a couple of years ago. But here I am with a 9-month-old, and while I agree that you shouldn't have kids if you don't want them (as a high school teacher, I can tell you that there are already plenty of messed-up, unwanted kids already -- the ones that are pregnant-on-meth: usually unwanted/wanted for the wrong reasons.), I also gotta tell you that I never understood what real, true love is until I became a parent. Period. I mean, I thought I did, but I didn't.
About six months ago, I blogged about how I transitioned from having all these questions you ask to actually having a kid here:
OK, I don't know why I can't put up a link to my post, but it's there on my blog. Called "Our Tortured Entrance into Parenthood."
Interesting post and fascinating comments. I have two children (22 year old daughter and 17 year old son). They are the loves of my life. Been through the trials and tribulations with them, and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Loving them and being loved is like no other.

Let’s face it kryptogal, life is sloppy. It doesn’t come in neat packages and never has. The highs and lows, the goods and bads, the successes and failures - that’s what life is made of for most of us. There are no guarantees. Your happiness in life-whatever that means- will not be found through having kids, or not having them.

One thing I’ve learned about my life is that when I filter everything through the lens of “me, me, me, me”, then I focus on how everything affects ME. It’s called self-centeredness. It’s a form of entitlement. When I’m able to understand (and accept) that the universe doesn’t revolve around me, then the questions are different. I think you are wondering how having a child will affect YOU, and it will. My experience with having kids has been all positive (and put that lie detector thing away k – it’s a synonym for judgment) in general terms, and yes, there have been moments when it wasn’t so much fun.

I don’t think you are really asking why people have children and are they glad about their choice because you’re not listening when they tell you. It seems as if you are seeking some comfort in your decision to not have kids. What about your parents? What do they say?

I wish you the best and am trying to not be snarky, but you are really focused on getting your needs met (see your list) and afraid that they won’t if you have a kid.

My suggestion. Don’t. Unless you can get over yourself first.
Grif's comment has focused for me something I've seen in this thread. Those of us who are telling you that we don't regret having children have been accused of both shading the truth and outright lying. Is that so different, really, from responding to a person who says s/he wants to remain childless with, "Oh, you'll change your mind someday"?
Please, don't have a baby if you really feel this way. Even adults who had powerful longings for young ones can be terrible parents. I think it is harder when you don't feel drawn to parenting. It is a life-long commitment.

It's OK to say, "I don't want children. They are not for me".
Great post.

Ignore the insinuations that being child-free is selfish. It's no more selfish than creating another human being out of thin air just because you want to have the amazing experience of parenthood (particularly when there are already so many unwanted children languishing in foster care).
So many amazing comments here- epriddy, lissa, odette, firedfornow, grif- I enjoyed reading your thoughts here

But Kasienda- your comment blew me out of the water. Yes to all of that. My girls teach me about myself and about the world every day. And the bond we have is unique in all the world. No one will be what they are to me and no one will be what I am to them. What I love most in the world are the people in it and two of the people that I love most in the world are my children.

Does this mean you can't be happy if you don't have children? Absurd. Does this mean children ruin your life? Equally absurd.
The older I get the more I realize that life is what you make it. It's your life, no one should tell you how to live it. They will, but you don't have to listen. Make your own choices.
My comment, intended to be posted here for you, has become so long that I reconsidered and decided to post my own blog in answer to your question and to help you fathom the mystery; and figure this out. You make a particularly strong case for not going through the rigors of childbirth - and the emotional, psychological, spiritual, (and again) physical demands and seemingly endless commitments of being a loving parent.

Ultimately, I will cast my vote for parenthood; but it's a long story. I have two children, ages 25 and 23 now, and I am very happy to be a father; and a Dad.
Reading these comments is fascinating!

To clarify regarding my suspicion that parents don't tell the full truth: it's not that I think they're actively engaging in deception. It's more that the topic just doesn't get candidly discussed very often. At least, not in my social circles (I live in a conservative area and any questioning of parenthood is completely taboo).

I have heard people pick apart the details of the last episode of Lost or discuss the merits of different electric toothbrushes in more detail and with more analysis than parenthood is given. Where I live, motherhood as an aspiration is just presumed. But considering that parenthood is so lifechanging, you would think it would be analyzed to death (which it is -- but only *how* to parent, not *if* to parent).

Basically, I am thirsting for more information. Though, as many have pointed out, I may be barking up the wrong tree, looking for information, facts, and logical explanations. But the answer "you won't understand until you've done it" is so incredibly frustrating. Even if it's true.

@ beta - I went and read your post. A-year-ago-you does sound exactly like right-now-me. Intriguing post.
This is a question I debated when I was younger. I was always ambivalent about having kids – when I was younger I assumed I’d get married and have kids, but as I got older, I realized that I didn’t really relate well to children and I certainly didn’t want to have children and not be a good parent. People always say “when you have your own, you’ll feel differently” but that seems like a dangerous assumption – you can love your kids and also be a bad parent. It seems hard enough to be a parent if you really want children. But I get why parents find having children so rewarding – I had a good relationship with my parents and I saw what they found rewarding about it.

However, I’m still baffled by some parent behaviors. I know this isn’t universal, but I’ve seen so many of my friends lose their interest in the welfare of children in general once they had their own children. The friends who were advocates for affordable housing for poor mothers now don’t want “those people” in their neighborhood. The people who believed passionately in funding poor schools suddenly want their tax money to only go to their kids schools. I realize that’s not everyone – some parents care about all kids – but it’s an awful lot of parents that I know. I guess there’s an evolutionary need to only care about your own offspring.

I’m not good with kids – I tried volunteering with kids and that didn’t work well at all. I just alienated the children I was trying to help. But I do care about children, and as someone who doesn’t have kids of my own, I feel like I can do my part by helping children in general – by voting sometimes against my own interests if it helps children in need, by donating when I can, by advocating for kids who might not have a voice. I think of that when people say I’m selfish for being child free.
It is Okay if you don't want kids.

The reason to have kids is because you want to.

The upside to having a kid is the love you feel for your child. (This is very difficult to describe and that is why when you ask parents the answer is not very satisfactory. Most of us are not Shakespeare when it comes to describing love.) For the vast majority of parents that feeling of love happens.

The downsides are much easier to describe and make much funnier stories. Who doesn't love a good exploding poop story? The downsides are pretty much what you say but not all of them happen to everyone, and they don't happen all at the same time. Autism is rare. Down syndrome is rare. The things that do happen to everyone like diapers and lack of sleep do pass - they may take much longer than you'd like, but mostly they do pass.

Also what you think will be a problem might not be (I thought diapers would be a bad but they where okay) and things you think you will enjoy may not work for you (I thought I would enjoy baking with my daughter when she was small - not.) Your mileage may vary: while diapers were not a big problem for me anther mom I know was dealing with diapers in the 5th-6th year - that could be a problem. And no one can tell you ahead of time what exactly you will be dealing with - but that is life.

If you decide to have a kid - enjoy. If you decide not to have a kid - enjoy.
Wow, I cannot even begin to read all the letters, so I will just dive in:

First of all, as befits Open Salon, your letter is almost identical to one we got to several years ago, that launched our series "Maybe Baby" which became a book of the same name. We used to get readermail (before we automated our Letters, and of course before we started Open Salon) that would start bigger staff debates than anything the editors could toss out into the crowd.

Some of us crowed about the joy of kids. Some of us said the LW was absolutely right, it was all terrifying propaganda. Even after we published a series and a book I don't think there is any right answer.

Except to answer personally: Nothing has been more important or fulfilling to me than raising my daughter. Nothing. And I love my job and my friends and my family. I grew up, in order to be a mother, in the sense of just shoving back at life's dumb demands and suddenly having priorities. I still feel that absolute stacking of what matters: I will keep her in college and I will answer her phone calls and give advice when asked (and sometimes when not).

It makes me feel tethered to the world, which I didn't, entirely, before. Plus, I love and enjoy her like crazy. Still, I can't say it feels that way for everyone, and so I don't push it. I just say: Open your heart, and don't think about how it looks so bad. Because you can't see the psychic, emotional and spiritual ways it feels so good, from outside.
Both of my girls are autistic, and I've never been 'blamed' for it by anyone-what sort of pricks are you hanging out with? ;)

I had children very early-much younger than I originally wanted to-I always thought that I would 'live my life' and have fun until I was 36 or so [seemed incredibly old to me at the time-what fun could anyone have after 40?], then adopt a child. After I had my first daughter I was incredibly, surprisingly happy- I honestly felt that I had 'missed her' w/o knowing it before she was born. Like I was just waiting for the truly fun time to begin once she arrived.

I still feel that way.
dizedd, wow, you speak for me as well. When my daughter was born I felt I'd been waiting for her all my life. I'm not saying everyone should or does feel that way, only that there are some things you feel that are not visible from the outside. I'm sure there were days you could have looked at me and Nora and thought, that poor woman, she's miserable! But actually, very few days, I believe.
As a loving, suffering, frustrated father of two, I completely agree with your logic. I guess I was vain :-)

Here, you might enjoy this:
I wanted to avoid saying anything about this. Because, yes, everyone has said lots of great things about the pros and cons, and everyone supports everyone's choice.
I feel like there's something missing in the "Yes, have a child when you have made that decision - perhaps with your partner." The fact that those ideal circumstances are not in any way reflective of pregnancies and births in the U.S. bugs me.

It's a tempting blog title - ruin your life! -and the thing is, ruin would be normal for many women and their partners dealing with unwanted pregnancies. Limited access to reproductive health services and birth control contribute to underserved people and communities having greater issues about standards of living - supporting a family, expanding a home.

I love this blog, and the premise - but I have to say: The conceit of (us) asking and considering the question is astounding

I guess I have some more creative ways to ruin my life tucked up my sleeve.
I love being a Mother. I also loved giving birth as painful as it was. Meeting your baby for the first time is one of the greatest "highs." I've experienced quite a bit in my almost 50 years of life and I can honestly say that raising children has been the highlight of my life...even above earning a couple of degrees, jumping out of an airplane, rapelling, running a 10K, painting a picture......
Now more specifically, my favorite stage of childhood is babyhood and toddlers for lots of reasons. My next favorite is young childhood. My least favorite is the teenaged years! Even if you have the best teenagers, there is still more worry than at any other stage because of peer pressure, dating and most of all the driving. I also discovered that you don't stop worrying about them after they've grown and leave home. In some ways, you worry more.
As far as "aging" you....I believe that babies and young children keep you younger, not only because of the sweet and refreshing things they do and say, but because of the physical aspect of raising children. They keep you active and moving! In my opinion though, I think teenagers can age you terribly because of the worry and challenges. By the way, I have six children ages 9 to 25 and I gave birth to all of them!
The one thing I can say with certainty is, don't have a child unless you feel compelled to. It has to be what you, and you alone, want, not from any outside pressure.

Each person commenting is telling you what is valid for them and may not be the same for you. I could tell you my experience with being a mother and it would have little to do with you.

As far as why people have children, I don't think it is something that can be completely answered with a logical, intellectual reason. It's an urge, a desire, a feeling. If you don't feel it, don't do it.
Krypto, nobody knows what is good for you except you. You are the final arbiter on what path you want to take because you know yourself better than anyone. Sure, people can tell you what you should do because of what they know about you. But no one knows the whole story about anyone else, and trying to abide by others' opinions--_especially_ about something as life-changing as having kids--is a sure path to unhappiness. It sounds to me you have more reservations than pros about being a mother--and reservations serious enough that you should really sit down, think about your life, and determine whether a child is a commitment you want to make.

As for all of those who swear up and down that parenthood has made them more unselfish and generous than their childless, "empty" peers--stop. Just frickin' stop. You folks do not raise your kids alone, as much as you seem to think so. There are a lot of childless/unmarried people who put in time and effort to help your children--would you say _those_ people were selfish and empty? And there are a lot of us out here who are helping our elderly parents or are putting time into charitable work or doing things to make life better for everyone (work that too many childed folk are the first to say they "don't have time for, 'cause of the kids") We like doing these things and are better at them than we ever would be as parents. Are we selfish and empty? Or is that something you all like to tell yourself so you can feel superior? Just because you raise kids doesn't make you a saint or an ever-overflowing fount of wisdom and generosity.
Every woman should be allowed to live twice. Once with children. Once without. rated.
Yes, your life will change when there are children but you will also change. And it's hard to know how you will change after children come into your life. I wasn't a kid person either -- until my daughter was born. As others here have said, it's difficult to describe the love parents have for their kids. Certainly there is a wow factor to it...I helped to create this person who thinks and feels and has opinions (and now that she is nine, she isn't shy about sharing them.) For me, everything was new again. After she was born, I saw the world through the eyes of someone seeing it for the first time. I learned as she did, I experienced the joy and the stumbles and the hurt right along with her. I was awed by her sense of wonder and even now by the connections she makes.
As for being unhappy, I think this comes from the overwhelming sense of responsibility that comes with being a parent. My daughter's existence depended on me, and her life now still does. That can create strains and pressures in even a good marriage. Any problems in a marriage will be magnified--not necessarily because of the children, but because of the way good and bad that we each deal with stress and pressures of that responsibility.
There isn't a formula or equation to come up with the right answer when thinking about children. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut.
Having children is the death of your old life and the beginning of a wonderful, terrible best of times, worst of times, that will expand your emotional range and teach you more about yourself than you want to know. I am the oldest of six, the oldest of 45 first cousins, a weekly babysitter since I was 12. I knew what I was getting into and I rejoice I got into it. Like most elders, I wish I started with my grandbabies first.

Hang around the children's section of your local public library, read the books, talk to the kids and see what you think.
Deering, I haven't heard anyone say that. What I have heard, and what is certainly true in my own case, is that having children has made me a lot more outwardly focused and giving than I otherwise would have been. Isn't that the main argument against parenting: A parent *has* to be and no longer fully owns his or her own life?
At the age of 47, my husband and I became parents of a 10-month-old Vietnamese boy. I had struggled for years over the question of parenthood, and thought I had resolved it at the age of 40 when I decided that I absolutely did not want to go through with it. Then something happened to me; please don't ask me what it was, but I was en route to a conference and in the air I realized I wanted to adopt a child. I called my husband from the conference hotel and he said okay.

It was hell at first, and intermittent hell for a long time after that. My husband and I cried, we clung to each other in misery, we fought, we almost split up, and through it all our little one blithely went on his merry way cooing, squirming, crawling, walking, running, putting everything in his mouth, pulling things off of shelves and walls and wailing his head off if he was restrained. Everything had to be choreographed, including showers, laundry, shopping, going to the bathroom (especially in public, where he early on learned how to unlock the doors to the stalls), getting dressed--everything. There was no down time. I am an academic who needs lots of peace and quiet and down time. My husband is an extreme introvert. We thought we were going to die.

People reassured us that it would get better, and over time, it did. Now we have a hyper-active 8-year-old and I love him more than anything in the world. In the morning we wrestle and tickle each other for half an hour before going up. He attacks me with pillows, jumps on my shoulders, licks my nose, makes raspberries on my ear, and crows in triumph. He tells me all about the Star Wars Clone Wars saga, builds enormous Lego contraptions, bits and pieces of which are strewn all over the house. I am a peaceable sort, but he plays with Nerf guns that shoot little foam darts everywhere. He builds forts in the living room out of chairs, pillows, the couch, and blankets. He climbs up in my lap when I'm trying to read my morning paper and drink my coffee, and kisses me on the face, his eyes dancing with mischief.

I remember when we were planning the adoption, my parent friends would say that no one can possibly know what it's like without going through it. That annoyed me because, as an academic, I'm used to the idea that by doing lots of research I can learn what I need to know about something. But they were right. I would never, never undo this crazy decision, taken in midlife. I don't particularly enjoy cub scout meetings at the age of 55, but I do it gladly.

As for my husband: he's less bonded with our son than I am. Part of it has to do with his personality, which doesn't take too well to the kinds of activities I'm describing. It's a source of regret for me, but not a tragedy. We are not a perfect family, but we do our best. That's all anyone can hope for in this world.
Don't have kids. Parenting is just as difficult as you imagine. Your love for your children is what makes the work seem more like an all-consuming passion rather than endless drudgery.
When I was single, I definitely cared for myself much better. I worked out, had a life-balance thing going on, was healthier and looked better than I do now, overworked with two small children and one on the way. My marriage has changed with the introduction of parenting. I am exhausted.
I would sometimes like a break-- actually, the grandparents frequently offer to take the kids overnight so my husband and I can get some romantic time alone but you know what? I wouldn't mind a weekend retreat all to myself without my husband. I love him, but I used to love having time to myself to follow my whims and I miss that.
But I did all of that for a long time before marriage and kids and I wouldn't trade my family life for anything. When I was single, I took very good care of myself but felt that something was missing and now I don't feel like anything is missing.
When you want to have kids, you love them and that love motivates you to sacrifice your own needs and wants. You can't fully explain it to another person unless they have also been there.
I hope that I will raise my children to be functional and productive adults who are mostly happy. I hope they won't resent & blame me too much when life disappoints them. I hope that one day I will have done my job raising them, their needs won't be so physical and constant and I will get back some solitude.
If the idea of parenting doesn't appeal to you, you will probably be unhappy as a parent.
For some people, an all consuming task and sacrifice is the essence of happiness. So even if they don't seem happy, because they are worried and stressed, actually they are happy because they are putting their energies into a project that motivates and consumes them, and losing track of their self-consciousness in the process.
There's a poem that goes "your children are not your children, they are the sons and the daughters of life's longing for itself." As a teenage I read that as telling parents to back off, as a new parent I see it as an apology.
Just because we are women, we should not be expected to be mothers. Motherhood should not be a foregone conclusion but a very personal choice.
I was thirty when I had my first. I knew I wanted kids, though I didn't know why. I am a pretty accepting person, so the pregnancy wasn't bad, although it was high risk because I was carrying twins. Objectively, I was not happier before I had kids. I felt...lost. I was infertile, and had to go through a lot to get pregnant, and to stay pregnant.

When my babies were born, I couldn't believe how much I loved them. I loved nursing them, which beforehand had been repulsive to me. I loved playing with them. I loved caring for them. They kept me incredibly busy, and exhausted, but it was a good exhausted. There were times, when both were crying for no apparent reason that I realized that I couldn't send them back. But those times were fewer than the times I adored them.

For the difficult times, even with various mental problems with me and my spouse and my children, the amount you put into it can yield miraculous results. There are parents who don't put that much into it, especially with both working and a lot of day care, and they still get good kids. There are parents who are negative and abusive with their kids if that is all they daughter has their kids in her psych ward. She's trying to keep them from becoming serial killers.

So, it's up to you. As you said, it's okay either way. I was not a "I love babies"-type, but I discovered after I had my own, that I LOVE babies. They are soft and they have tiny hands, and they are unconditionally loving, and they are little mirrors for everything you like about yourself and everything you hate about yourself. If you hate yourself unconditionally...don't have babies.

If you like yourself a lot, you will probably like your babies, too. But you do have to give up a lot and put them first for a lot of years.

I don't recommend being a single mom if you have a choice. One baby is doable with two people to care for it.
Why have kids? Well, it's ingrained into your body and brain by evolution. Some evolutionists even say that the main reason for life is to spread itself.

Basically a lot of your criticisms are boiling down 18 yrs of the downside into one soup.
1. Lack of sleeping in--only occurs from birth until they can make their own breakfast (6 or 7, depending on the child). After that, it's not a problem. In fact, the opposite becomes true as children reach teen years.
2. Romance changes, but then again, that happens in ALL monogamous relationships. It's called habituation.
3. I was indifferent to babies, until my wife and I had one. The same occurs with kids. Also, kids become teens and adults.

However, that said, if you don't want kids, don't have them. Just try not to get romantically involved with someone who does want kids. You sound a little selfish and immature for 31, and it might be better for you not to have kids.
First, I also joined Open Salon after reading your post and the comments.

I am a new mother (my DD is 6 months old) and I also had many of your concerns about having a child. Pregnancy was uncomforable, birth was painful, and the financial pressure/responsibility is enormous. Right now the sleep situation is less than optimal but is improving. My relationship with my husband has changed, but in a positive way--our connection now is deeper and more intimiate. I see the best parts of him in our DD. However, nothing in the world is like hearing your child laugh or seeing your child smile.

I also think there is a tremendous difference between those parents who planned for children and those who "accidentially" found themselves with children. In my experience, those parents who planned for children were more ready to make the scarifices and lifestyle adjustments necessary, and more likely to appear "happy". Some "accidental" parents may resent the changes that a child will inevitably bring.

Being a parent is hard work and is the hardest thing I have ever done. It is not wrong to recognize that having children is not in your heart and to make the affirmative decision to not have children.
Gosh, I really hesitate to answer because it's very nearly impossible to explain to a childless person what it's like to have a child. You likely know that the greatest loss any person can suffer is the loss of a child. That speaks to the intensity of the relationship. You can't know that intensity until you choose to live it. It's scary to be brave, but uncommonly rewarding once we've chosen the brave act.

You ask, "Why have kids when it looks so bad?" You're only seeing the easy-to-see things, not the joy on the inside. I see people walking their dogs and picking up the poo afterward; should I conclude that dog ownership is just a hassle and a bummer?

There are three events in my life that stand out as supreme, unparalleled joy -- my wedding, the birth of my first child, and the birth of my second child. All three are deep commitments to love. My husband and I were together for 12 years before we chose to have a baby. Our lives are very different now... but appropriately so, as I believe becoming a parent encourages (forces?) you to grow, mature, and respect the nature of responsibility in your life. I absolutely wouldn't change a thing, and only wish our finances would allow another child.

I should add this: if you choose to have children, please throw your whole heart and mind into it. Accept and love your responsibility to this new human. The more you put into it, the greater are the rewards.
I agree with much has been posted here about the joys of parenthood.

I also agree that it is not for everyone. I've known many who are very happy with their choice to be childless and also many who have regrets. Being a parent does change your life so much that no one should even consider doing it unless they really want to.

Having children didn't ruin my life, it made my life. After my son was born 10 years ago, more than one of my childless friends commented that they couldn't believe the change in me, how much happier and more relaxed and self-confident I seemed. ( So I don't think my pals found me to be less fun afterward, like in your post.)

I don't want to make this too long, but in a nutshell, before I had my son, I had an anxiety disorder, so many opportunities that I was confused and directionless, and a once happy marriage that was growing distant.

My husband and I decided to try to get pregnant five years into our marriage, partially because we felt like we were just sitting on the fence in life, afraid to make any decisions about what to do next. We were afraid to make any choices that we couldn't take back, and were falling into a kind of stagnant run in our late twenties. It took us a year, and a soon as I got pregnant we proceeded to panic that we'd made the wrong decision.

But then he was born, and like all the previous posters, yes there was the falling in love with our son and the joys that are hard to explain to non-parents. Previously we were artsy cynics who had lived in the East Village among the club goers and heroin addicts, we found that having our son cleaned us of our cynicism and brought more creativity into our lives.

For me, I found that caring about something outside of myself was exactly what I needed to become a more balanced, better functioning adult. Cleaning, cooking, working at all of life's necessary tasks was a tiresome drag that I resisted before I had my child. Afterwards, I began to see each task for the act of love it truly is.

Further, I finally started taking better care of myself also, because I wanted to be a good example for my child of a whole human being.
Therefore I not only changed my daily habits--nutrition, exercise, sleep, moderating my alcohol use, but I finally was able to focus on my artistic desires and career as well. For whatever reason, I wasn't able to do this just for myself.

I'm not lying when I say I simply genuinely am enjoying helping my ten-year old grow and develop. I love it so much, that I've endured five miscarriages and two failed adoptions to raise another newborn right now at the age of 42.

Of course, maybe childless people don't need to raise children to be complete the way I did. Everybody's different!
Oh, it's such an easy answer. And you don't understand it because it's not something you can see.

Take the most profound love experience you've ever had and multiply it by about 100. That's how you feel about your children. Oh, sometimes you hate the situation you're in ... because it's really, really, hard. I've often said it's both the best thing that ever happened to me and the worst. But it's worth every second because of this deep, uncontrollable, unbounding love. The type that is truly, in so many cases, blind. The type where you would, without question, give up your life for someone else.

I've heard it's a hormone related physiological phenomenon. Something about oxytocin, I believe. So unless something goes horribly wrong, most people experience this.

I just think it's so sad that people make decisions not to have children when they don't know what this will be like. Or, apparently, that it will even happen (thank you very much, Stratified Society). It's sort of like deciding not to have sex because it seems so messy ... when you've never had an orgasm. Have you ever tried to describe an orgasm? Okay, so that's why you don't understand parental love ... it's literally indescribable.

I know that in some cases people aren't cut out to be parents. If you're all into yourself, maybe it's not a good idea. But this is a life-altering experience with immediate results ... few people are unchanged after they experience it ... so there's a big chance that it will change the way you look at almost everything. You hold that baby in your hands in the hospital, this love overcomes you, and all of a sudden you GET ... in a more real way than you ever have .. why the environment, for example, is important ... because even after you're gone, this person you love beyond love will still be here.

So I think it's sad when people deny themselves this. Also, if more of us are invested in the future of the world, isn't that better for all of us????
I am also 31 and occasionally get inquiries. Sometimes when I see the 'finished product'--like when a parent has good, decent grown children, I think what it would be like to have that relationship and know you've contributed something positive to the world that is supposed to outlast you. But like you, I am HORRIFIED at childbirth. I see how stressed and tired most parents are. I've heard again and again that marriages are happier without kids, based on research. I have constantly heard that losing a child is the WORST thing. When I hold a puppy, I want a puppy. When I hold a baby, I want to give it back. I think the reason people can't give you good explanations for why they had children is because on one hand, it is a deep-seated urge for many that has kept this species around and that defies logic. On the other, a lot of us are accidents.
Not that you need one more comment, but I have to say: I don't agree with those people who believe you have to totally want kids to be a good parent. From my own experience as a parent and a child, people who are ambivalent about kids are often more aware of what they're getting into. They have exactly the sense of reality that makes a good parent. They imagine the worst, and they steel themselves for it.
All those women who obsessively want kids are usually the ones who write those essays that start with "nobody ever told me it was going to be this hard." All those fathers who choose their spouses on their baby making potential, who would want that kind of father?
When I was debating whether or not to continue my pregnancy I sat down an read Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions, her journal about the first year of single motherhood with a colicky pain in the ass baby. Read that. It might help.
Great read! And very tough subject. I'm an older parent, as my wife and I had fun and travels during our 30's and then "settled down" to have kids. I don't profess to have any answers to why people have kids. For me, it was just something that I knew I would want to do (and not for any of the reasons you've listed!). I just have "known" since my teens that I wanted to have kids and I guess the usual rationale has been that I think that "good people should be having kids - to make more good people".

Now that we're into it and the girls are getting a bit older (6 & 4), I can honestly say that it's been the right thing for us. We've been incredibly fortunate, in that we had to go the IVF route (test-tube babies!), but were lucky to have had it work 2 out of 3 times. And the girls are beautiful, smart, and caring (credit to my wife - a "career woman" who changed course and wanted to stay home for a few years to get the girls off to a good start). The older they get, the better this deal has turned out for me. They're turning into real people and they seem like they'll be good people for their lives. I give my wife more credit for this than I do myself, but I know I had a hand in it and it makes me proud. I can hope and dream about the two of them growing up and doing fantastic things with their lives... and maybe creating more good people in the process.

No doubt there are sacrifices to be made for the sake of the kids... but these almost always pale in comparison to the joy and happiness of seeing the girls smile and laugh. Sounds corny, I know... but there's truth in there too!

Anyway... that's my two cents-worth. Now I'm off to read what others have written.
Great post, first of all. Parenting is a job. A full-time job, 24/7/365, for at least 18 years, possibly longer. Then it can become part-time. But the pay-offs are truly priceless and memorable. The mentoring and nuturing is constant. It's kind of like the old saying, "You get out of it, what you put into it." My wife and I did the wanderings and trips before we started our family. I believe that was the best for us. It also depends on who is giving you the advice. Widen the pool of parents and do the research. Read some books about parenting and child-rearing. It is scary and can be intimidating. No child comes with a handbook tailor-made for them on how to be raised.
Good luck!
Do children ruin your life? Most definitely, yes. Because you have to let them destroy your old life before they can give you a new, better one.

My, aren't there a lot of comments here? And they seem to be running better than 90:10 in favor of "I didn't know what having kids would be like but now I'm so glad I did." Don't get me wrong, I would NEVER suggest that someone should have children if they don't want them. But, speaking for myself, I was so sure when I was younger that I didn't want children, and now I know that my life would have been so much less satisfying if I had not had my daughter, that I can't help but say ... We only get just this one life this time around, and choosing to forego an experience that is such a fundamental part of being human is not a decision that should be made lightly. So I hope you are listening to everyone, not just the people who told you that you should have a child so you can become immortal, create a mini-me, or circumvent the demise of the social security system. (Those comments are so silly I'm wondering if it your single, childless friends who told you that.)

This won't sound nice, but I suspect that many of the people in the minority who are saying "I wish I hadn't had kids" are the ones who clung to their old lives and refused to accept the new lives their kids had to offer. But the truth of the matter is, their former lives would have been "ruined" anyway -- by age, or poverty, or riches, or the election of a Republican president ;-), or whatever other changes came to them as time went by. Nothing stays the same; we wake up to a new life every day. It's possible those people would have been just as dissatisfied with their new lives if it had been something other than children that ruined their old lives. There's no way to know.

As for me, I am so grateful to my daughter for coming along and growing me up. I know it wasn't an easy task.
What interesting comments.

I think, at heart, most people ARE liars--parents and non-parents equaly--so it doesn't surprise me that you find parents to be liars since that is where your focus is. I don't think debate over that is relevant to the subject of parenthood, really.

Society puts tremendous pressure on women to marry and have babies--even in the more progressive circles. It's easy for the childless to feel defensive about their circumstance. For that, I sympathize. But be careful about using that fact as an excuse to dump on parents. We didn't create this world and are working with circumstances also. For some of us--many of whom comment here--parenthood was the correct decision. You will just have to take our word for it.

Now, go take your unattached self to some quiet spot and enjoy the solitude--that is nearly the only thing I miss about being single.
Oh, do I feel your pain on this one. I have four, soon to be 21, 19, 17 and 11. The oldest are boys. So I have had a number of years of tangling assholes with teenage sons. Sadly it was done in an unsupportive parenting environment and has likely done irrepairable harm to my marriage.

I am not sure I can answer with objectivity. I can tell you I absolutely adore the 11 year old daughter. She is my silver lining in so many ways.
Ok children can't make you happy or unhappy, that is really about you not them. If you were happy before you had em you will be happy after you have them, if not, then not. It is pretty simple. The best part of having kids is the hilarity! Some of it is really, really, really funny. Like the time our oldest zipped himself into his ski jacket before going to bed, but he didn't put his arms through the sleeves he zipped himself in like a sleeping bag, it was tight though, must tighter than a sleeping bag. I warned him not to do that. I said, look this will not end well. So in the middle of the night my husband and I hear, really, really soft, "help me, help me, help me." I am laughing so hard right now remembering it I can hardly type. As you may suspect he was trapped! We rescued him, but I couldn't stop laughing!
Sometimes it is extremely scary. One night that same son, years later when he was 18 called in the middle of the night. I answered, I hate middle of the night calls, they are never good, a small voice whispers to me, Mom, I don't know where I am. "What?" "WHAT".. blah, blah blah, I found him, my husband drove the 70 miles to where he was to pick him up. So it is both scary and funny, good and bad. But that is the way life is, with or without kids.
The truth is, you just can't explain it. Sometimes it happens when you're least expecting it. Sometimes it's a mistake. Sometimes, couples fantasize about having a big family and enjoying the little "yous" that you produce. Sometimes, people just don't want any. But when you do have them, there is no turning back. Life gets put on hold and it is hard, hard, hard work - especially when you're a single parent. But hard even with two parents. The joy comes when you watch them hit their first home run and the crowd goes nuts, or when you take them on their first rollercoaster - cause then you get to enjoy all that fun stuff you forgot about when you grew up - like meeting Mickey Mouse or now SpongeBob - or watching your little girl fly on the uneven bars or get straight A's on their report cards. Then you watch them grow up and listen to those mouths and then you remember how horrible you were to your mom! Good God! But, it all works together. The many, many lows are met by many, many highs. You cannot explain it. I love rollercoasters. Having kids is like a giant rollercoaster. But, as they get older, the doors to your freedom start opening up again and that is a beautiful thing, truth be told! BTW, I didn't have mine til I was 34. There is no wrong or right in whatever you choose. Life is too short! Enjoy! :)
It seems to me that the reason to have kids is that you want to do the parenting. Not *be* a parent, which I think has more to do with meeting societal expectations, but you should want to take on both the adventure and the burden. You need to want to raise one or more children.

I'm 47 and childfree, partly because I knew I wasn't up to the workload of being a single mother and that was the only option I had. Even so, I never felt a strong urge to reproduce myself and I can think of enough reasons not to that if I really wanted to be a mother, I would have gone the adoption route.

It's not that I dislike kids. I love my nieces and nephews and godchildren -- I'm a terrific aunt and godmother, actually. And I wouldn't rule out involvement with a man who had kids.

I think it's great that so many responders to this blog are really glad that they became parents. But if you don't feel that parenting is for you, it doesn't mean that your life is empty or meaningless. It just means that parenting is not going to be what fills it or gives it meaning. Consider the lives of some famous childless women: Julia Child, Elizabeth I, Frida Kahlo, Jane Austen, Dolly Parton, Mary Cassatt, Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa, Helen Keller, Katharine Hepburn...well, you get the idea. Were these lives empty or meaningless?

If you don't want to mother a child, what *do* you care enough about to give so much of yourself? A good cause? Helping others? Artistic works?
Having a child is like dedicating yourself to an exercise program... physical, mental, and emotional exercise. It can be hard work to guide another human being from birth to being able to take care of themselves. Like any kind of discipline, you get a feeling of accomplishment out of it. If that's the kind of accomplishment you like, great. If not, don't do it.

We're having this conversation partly because of Social Security. If people still had to rely in large part on their children to support them in their old age, we wouldn't have so many people dithering about it. Children have become luxury items -- expensive luxury items. And yet -- childless people owe us childbearers a vote of thanks for providing the next generation who will be changing your Depends in the nursing home. :)

Seriously... perhaps you people who don't have kids should pay a little more into Social Security. Because someone has to pay all those expenses to raise those future earners who will be paying your Social Security benefits when you retire.
Ruin? No. Change? Yes.
It is the most challenging thing I have ever done, and provided me with some of my favorite moments, as well as some of those places where I still need a brain scrub. Now that my daughter is an adult, I shake my head in knowing sympathy for all the young mothers around me who have so many stages ahead of them, because I know what they don't know. It will be hard, expensive and tiring, and most notably thankless. It's also hilarious, touching, enlightening and mind blowing. Listen to your own instincts, and do what you feel is in your best interest. As for me, I am glad I brought my daughter into the world, and it's a better place because of her. Holding your own child, smelling their freshly shampooed hair as you carry that sleepy little lump to bed, while they pat you gently on the back....well, what can I say?
I'm coming back with a second comment. I question whether other people's experience with parenthood is relevant to you at all. There is not a universal experience that you can know about ahead of time.

There is another thing that I see little mentioned here. Children are very specific individuals from birth. They are not clones of the parents; they come with a temperament and certain potentials of their own. This means just for starters, there are happy "easy" babies and babies who cry all the time. The wide variations possible make the whole experience unpredictible and not subject to your control.

I'll repeat from my previous comment - Don't have a child unless you feel compelled to do so.
I think many people who decide to have kids suffer from profound amnesia regarding the misery of their own childhoods. I know mine was pretty miserable, leaving home to become an autonomous adult was an exhilarating experience for me. My dearest love had a similar experience and never wanted children himself. Families are a great source of stress and anguish, if we're honest with ourselves.
This is one of those discussions that is so common and so given over to flip/easy responses that it gives me pause before I undertake making an honest one. Your list of reasons "not to" are long and I've heard them before. Many times . Generally they run the gamut of giving up the life that you so cherish for something that seems somewhat compromised and burdensome. Childrearing seems hard and it seems relentless and perhaps to the outsider, it appears to be not really "all that" rewarding . The interesting thing to me is that most people with these qualms are listing things that give them personal pleasure and are balancing them against what they see as simply having responsibility and seritude. All I can tell you is that when you are young, you can plot and plan and arrange your life to your liking giving yourself the impression that there is a steady trajectory to the path you think you are on. Having children pretty much blows a gaping hole in that notion. It makes life messy and forces you to make changes in your own behavior and take assessment of who you are because others now look up to you and depend on you and on whom you will imprint with your notion of the world whether you like it or not. They will get their notion of how to relate to the opposite sex from you. Boys will get their sense of relating to girls by how their father interacts with their mother. Girls will get their notion of self-worth in many ways by how both of their parents treat her. They will get their sense of fair play and morality from you, (essentially the same thing). They will get their sense of well-being from seeing how you comport yourself, how you feel about your own existence, how you treat others. Their character is built in part by seeing how you deal with adversity. How you treat strangers. How patient you are. How happy you are.
On top of that there are endless chores. You will find yourself making their lunches, bathing them and when they get a fever that wracks their body, you will hold them and rock them unto the wee hours until your arms feel like rubber and you are exhausted beyond belief. Sound good so far? Because honestly the one thing that it teaches you above and beyond all others is that you have the capacity to love and care for someone that goes far beyond anything you knew you were capable of and that brings a kind of solace to you that somehow makes sense and finally puts into perspective all of the confusion and striving of your early years. Is it fun? I wouldn't characterize it as that. And it certainly isn't glamorous. It's sometimes drab. But I can tell you this; children take their place in this world and interrupt the fabric and weave of your life. They are little hurricanes. They are little natural disasters. They are events as much as they are people and they either grown up to be happy, curious self-motivated adults or needy, unsure sociopaths and sometimes they grow up to be Glenn Beck or George Bush in which case they are large disasters creating wreckage in their wake. My own little disaster is waiting for me at home, ready to show me the picture she drew today and tell me what some girl said to her during recess and to ask if I will take her to the park and/or buy her some ice cream. I can hardly wait.
The New York Times just posted a similar item, called "Does Having Children Make You Unhappy?"

It discusses research showing that happiness and life satisfaction is no different between child-less couples and couples with children, and in fact, the it is slightly lower for the latter. Despite that apparent fact, the vast majority of comments here have been in favor of having kids (and I suspect they will run the same way on the NYT blog).

The basic idea seems to be that while you might sacrifice a bit of personal "happiness", you gain what people have repeatedly described as "meaning."
If you want kids, you should have them. If you don't want them, you shouldn't have them. Far be it from me to encourage the doubtful to procreate. There are too many people in the world anyway.

I don't technically have a child yet (though I do have a fetus that is pretty far along at this point, so there's not really any going back). But you asked why anyone would want one, so here's my answer:

I really enjoy being a part of my awesome family. I like what CindyRoss said: "Life is enhanced by our connections to other people." The more meaningful social connections people have, the happier they are. I've got great parents, great sisters, great friends, and a great husband. I'd like to have children so I can add even more wonderful, meaningful relationships to my life. Nieces/nephews/cousins/pupils are nice, but you just can't have the same bond with them as with someone you birthed and raised.

I definitely have doubts and fears about losing all the 'fun' from my life - it's already happened to a large degree, pregnancy sucks and is much more incapacitating than I had expected - but life has stages. I had a fun-young-single-in-the-city stage, but I've BTDT and don't need to do it forever. I expect the coming stages to be enjoyable too, though in other ways.

Actually I think I would feel pretty empty and depressed if I were trying to hitchhike through Europe or clubbing till 6 AM at 35 or 40. Everyone else would be younger and looking at me funny, my friends would be busy with their own families. I would feel old and out of place. I would rather try to accept the different joys that come with new phases of life, rather than clinging to the old ones out of doubt and fear.
The questions being asked here strike me as being a minefield I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole.

I wouldn't presume to try to convince or coax even one of my closest friends, male or female, into having or not having children, much less a total stranger. When I was young and arrogant I didn't think that way, but now I know better. Personal decisions are personal decisions and the only person who could possibly give you any practical advice is a doctor who could tell you if you were physically fit enough to bear children, and that's about it.

I would answer specific questions, but even then I would have to qualify it with that old standby "Your results may differ" used by infomercials everywhere, i.e. I can say that labor wasn't bad at all, knowing darn well that is not the case for many.

Yes, I can relate my own experience raising two children, except that there is no guarantee that my experience will be anywhere near your experience. Maybe somewhere there is an eight-hundred point checklist that would help you make a decision, but you'll have to do that research yourself.
I had three in 33 months. They are all teenagers now. I am happily divorced and doing it mostly on my own. All I can say is that I cannot imagine my life without them, but not a day goes by that I don't try like hell.
I assume you are already married so it may be too late already. It really takes one or, two like one, to raise a child. If you pick a spouse whom you've studied long and hard and can find few quirks that make you want to kick them in the ass, then look long and hard at their parents and siblings. If the spouse does not have the same or very similar qualities that make them almost one with yourself, it's going to be aggravating. What I'm saying is that parenting is not just about the child, it's about the parental relationship between you and your spouse as well. If you can't be on the same parenting page it's going to be hard. If you do it alone it will blissfully easy. I've done it both ways. I liked it better when I didn't have to deal with General Chaos, and my children are much better behaved when General Chaos is not around.

As for child birth - they are right. There is love for your parents, siblings, friends, spouses, God. Love for your cat, your dog and maybe even stuff. And you already know what all of those feel like. Some are greater, some are deeper, some are richer, some are fuller. But there is another kind of love that you ,at 31, have not yet experienced and in fact at this moment in time are totally unaware of it's existence and you can not comprehend the richness, the depth, the fullness and the greatness until the moment you hold your child in your arms. Nothing and no one will ever be able to dampen, darken or steal that consistent depth of emotion you feel for your child. It is unconditional. You didn't ask it to be, didn't plan it that way, it just is. It's a leaping of joy from your heart that cannot be made to stand still and you have no desire to quiet it's dancing.

The many personalities of babes - you could have a baby who has colic until he is 6 months old and you will go out of your mind - not because the noise is driving you crazy, but because the one you love so deeply is in serious pain and you are unable to help him at all. That baby may end up with reflux and barf all over you, your clothes, your furniture, rugs, but water cleanses, ya know. He reaches 2 and you are braced for the terrible 2 but they never show. He adores you. He brings you flowers all summer long. He kisses you on the lips, shameless and innocent, He pats your back and comforts you when you are blue, after he is better from his vomiting virus and you have come down with it, he remembers how tenderly you took care of him and holds your hair while it's your turn to puke. He thinks you are the greatest person on earth and brags to his friends about you. He bakes you a cake in the easy bake oven when everyone else forgot your birthday. He grows into a handsome, respectful, sensitive young man and he talks to you for hours at night when he is feeling thoughtful. He shares his hopes and dreams with you as well as his heart breaks.
This is the picture of my oldest child whom I raised alone until he was 6. He is now 15 and my world would crumble if he were not in it. I have 2 other children with very different personalities with no less adorable traits and the recipients of my undying love, but I don't want to hi-jack your blog anymore than I already have with this long comment.
I don't find your post snarky or mean-spirited at all.

I have two daughters. One, a bipolar 20-year-old who causes me endless grief and anxiety and stress, the other, 17, an honors student athlete who is a joy. Would I do it over again? Yes.

Too late to expand now. But if you aren't ready to work harder, be under more stress, spend most of your money on others and not get laid as much as you would like, then don't have kids. It is hard.
Humans have children because the sum total of our biology compels us to. We have no more choice in the matter than yeast, which I suspect also loves its young and believes it is ennobled by them, even as the entire culture is poisoned by its own fecundity.
I won't try to sell you on childbearing/rearing. It isn't smiles and rosy cheeks most of the time. There are frowns and fights, grimaces and strange issues (You're a vegetarian when I make fancy dinner, but you just ate chicken nuggets for lunch!)
You can be handed a gifted child with bipolar disorder who one minute paints you a picture and screams at you the next (that was me as a kid, sorry mom). You can have a child with severe issues from birth or ones that surface with time, such as autism. The metaphor for this is playing a lottery, really. When we choose to be parents (whatever the method, because this goes for adoption as well as birthing) we are saying we can handle the results, that we are going to be up for the task of raising this stranger.
I didn't choose to become pregnant. I was 16 and contraception failed me. It happens. But I chose to keep my child, despite critics on all sides pushing their agendas. I was horrified by what was happening within my body. I had dreams of the monster consuming me from the inside out. It was a distinctly frightening ordeal, not helped by an unsupportive boyfriend. My parents rallied around me eventually, though, and I saw at the cusp of my beginning as an adult that my parents were still raising me. They dealt with feelings of having failed me (I never thought they had) and their own issues with unwed motherhood, but they were there for me, just hoping to help me grow up and start the process of raising my own child.
That little child is now seven, and one of those rare, sparkling, witty kids that seem to populate movies or children's lit. But I made decisions in my life that I thought would benefit her and called them sacrifices, which did neither of us any good. As she's grown I've realized that being happy is good for her, too, because if I'm a shell I cannot be a mother.
What does this have to do with the truth about parenting? Well, A) it's not easy, and you will have times when you long to escape and B) you're more likely to be blessed with a kid who isn't you at all, who surprises you every day, who is a person and has her own way of experiencing life.
I've envied my still single and childless friend a few times, with her world traveling and her freedom, but she envies me with my family and earth mama life. But if you envy no one, if you sleep late on Sundays before heading to brunch, you can have your child-free life.
Or you can let your kid stay up late Saturday night and both of you can sleep in.
And p.s. Sex doesn't have to stop post-kids. It's all about perspective and situation. If you make an effort to get together, you will. If you adjust expectations, you'll be happy.
"The basic idea seems to be that while you might sacrifice a bit of personal "happiness", you gain what people have repeatedly described as "meaning.""

As Typo noted in a previous post, everyone has a different idea of what "meaning" is. Would Jane Austin's life had had more "meaning" if she had had children--and most likely never written the books that bring so much joy and wisdom to many? Is Rachel Carson's pioneering environmental work "meaningless" because she never married and didn't have kids (Although she _did_ wind up adopting an orphaned nephew and caring for her aging mother. That was stressful enough for her, and it's something it's unlikely she could have easily done with having a husband and kids.) ? Too many parents posting here automatically assume that being single/childless means empty, embarrassing lives of "hitchhike[ing] through Europe or clubbing till 6 AM at 35 or 40." In short, kryptogal, figure out what gives your life meaning and go for it. If the parent-and-child "Script" isn't for you, then that's not your meaning. And children are too important to throw the dice on the "maybe I'll love 'em as soon as I see them" gamble. They should be wanted from the start.
"Deering, I haven't heard anyone say that. What I have heard, and what is certainly true in my own case, is that having children has made me a lot more outwardly focused and giving than I otherwise would have been."

Well, by implication, you are saying that if a person doesn't have children, they will not be as focused and giving as they could be, correct? And it's not just you saying this--the majority of parent posters on here claim over and over that "having kids makes you a more giving person" nonsense. I'm sorry, but I've seen a fair amount of parents who use their kids as an excuse to be selfish--as an excuse to "not have time" to do charitable work, or pitch in to help aging parents or other family members. And I've seen childfree people who will go the extra mile to help others--who will take in kids whose parents are poor parents, or who will be there in a family crisis and help advert it. So, please, just stop with the "having kids makes you a better person" crap, because by saying so, you are saying that a person without kids is lacking.
Oh God. Freetards everywhere, just fucking shut up. We don't care if you don't want to have children.
I work from a successful home office and care for our two children while doing so. I've been in business my entire life and decided to down-size so the wife could get a leg-up on her career. She's been very successful as a result.

I have no interest in suggesting why you should or shouldn't have kids. What I am interested in is your stance so I will relay my own experience since your post resonates with me.

Many folks on this marble are not designed for the mundane social prescription of marriage and parenthood.

I know I'm not.

The repetition and lack of diversity at times is crushing. The mind tends to get wrapped up in a morass of circuitous activities that make up the family experience. I work daily to break patterns with little effect.

On occasion I find myself so caged that I would give anything for a time machine to traverse into the past to adjust old decisions to more closely reflect my deep desire for tranquility and free intellectual pursuit in the present.

But then I look at my children. They are beautiful in so many ways and provide much meaning to my life. My kids are so in love with me that I actually find the responsibility jarring.

I am a walking contrast at times held captive by the bizarre wonder of child-rearing while aching to break free and just go fucking party on the top of a jade mountain piled high with ancient civilizations and beautiful consenting females.

I won't go into the parental politics of child-rearing or the seeming invisibility of critical thought within the parent-ranks. Just rest assured, the mainstreaming effect is powerful within the realms of parenthood.

Thank you for your courage to just write what your heart feels. I can sense your genuine sincerity and intellectual honesty and I just eat this kind of shit up.
Deering, I'm really not saying that. That's your inference entirely. I'm sure I haven't implied that everyone/anyone in particular should have children, because I don't believe that. I know many people who have arranged their lives differently than I have arranged mine and who are outwardly focused, giving and more. There are wonderful people who have chosen not to have children and horrible people who have, and I suspect the proportions are fairly consistent between the two groups.

I don't really understand your agenda here. Are you wanting me to deny that having children changed me for the better in any way? (Doesn't every experience have the potential to do that?) Or are you wanting me to claim that only having children can accomplish that so that you can dismiss everything I say? I, like others who have posted here, have simply been answering the question posed by kryptogal, and in my case, having children hasn't ruined my life but rather enriched it. That experience exists wholly on its own; it doesn't need to be freighted with against those whose experiences and choices are different.
It is my perception that The Pill, which I consider to be one of the most momentous scientific inventions in human history, coupled with the emergence of economic and cultural choice for women, has changed the playing field when it comes to issues around parenting. Marriage and motherhood was once the only viable option for a woman's survival in society: you either got with the program or you were basically done. It still remains the only choice for women in many societies. But for the women of the first world, it is now just one among many options for creating your own life. And yet, the mandate for following this particular arrangement still exists as an emotional dictum, a kind of ancient peer pressure weighing heavily on the mind of the contemporary first world woman despite her freedom to choose other lifestyles, lifestyles which are indeed increasingly elected, but with fear and trembling and a continual self-questioning. I believe that some women are very suited to parenthood and should by all means embrace that choice with gusto. But for others, a new world awaits. New choices will have to be made courageously, with an awareness that whatever life you choose, it, too, will be full of both triumph and sorrow regardless.
Oh dear you have opened up a can of worms here... I am one of "those" people who has a child and (after inserting standard disclaimer here that I would never wish that she did not exist!) I definitely should NOT have had a kid. I am selfish. Like you, I live very much inside my own head and there are long stretches of time when I would rather not interact - let alone cater to the needs - of other humans. With children there is no choice in the matter and you are forced to care for them, even if your boss yelled at you that day at work, you can't pay the rent that week, or you just would really like to crash in front of the t.v. and watch crap. Watching young people around me now planning to have children I still cannot for the life of me imagine why anyone would willingly go through the experience. While I enjoy my daughter's company now (she is in her early 20's now and in college) I can only handle it in small doses and then we both get on each others' nerves. My view of relatives in general is that "if this person were not related to me would I want to be in his/her company?" and I can't help but applying this to my own child. While I still have yet to discover the "upside" of having a child, I can still say that I am indifferent to children and find their self-importance, tendency toward lying and neediness very irritating. It is unfortunate that in my 40's it is very hard to find a man to date who is not raising a child and even worse than raising one of your own is watching someone you love deal with children and exes. It is intensely upsetting. I'm sorry if I sound so negative about this but I feel very strongly about it and to tell you the truth - I envy you. Had I made it to my 30's without getting pregnant, I believe my life would have been very different. Good luck.
kryptogal, I don't have a lot to add to what others have already posted, but I feel much the same way you do. I'm 33 and have never felt a desire to have children, just a lot of ambivalence much like what you describe. I'm a responsible dog owner, and have no problem getting up at 6 every day to walk him, paying lots of money for daily playgroups, making sure I get home at an appropriate time at night, etc. So it's not that I want to have total freedom and not be responsible for someone else. I love animals and always want to have a pet. I just don't feel that way about children.

I know some people will think this sounds superior, but I actually am kind of horrified at some of what I observe in people who do have kids. Not everyone, but a lot of people. I feel like total devotion to kids means a loss of self. I feel judgmental about women who stay home to raise kids, and respect for women who continue to have a career after they have babies. I see teenagers acting like ignorant, spoiled, functionally illiterate monsters and I cringe. I see parents giving their kids everything they want out of a sense of guilt, and basically making them into intolerable people.

You also do not know what you're going to get. I have a mom and an aunt who each had 2 kids... For each of them, one kid (the boy in both cases) turned out to be a major disappointment. In one case we have serious drug addiction that has gone on now for 20 years. In another case we have severe learning disabilities, poor hygiene, emotional immaturity, and an inability to live independently. Both of these women are damn glad they have two kids, and basically pin everything on the kid that is "fine."

My dad has come out and made comments indicating my brother is a disappointment. Neither of my parents can relate to him... They feel guilty that they don't want to hang out with him. They have to make a strong effort to converse with him about the things that interest him, and I know it's painful. They've always been embarrassed about his weight, his hygiene, the way he acts in public. And I'm sure a lot of you can appreciate how this kind of thing affects the "normal" sibling. I guess my point is, you could easily end up with a kid like that, who causes you endless frustration and embarrassment, and have to care for him way longer than you would have wanted to. He's not going to care for you, because he can't. Sure, you'll love him, sure, you won't wish he didn't exist, but if he's your only kid are you going to be happy about that? And yes, educated, intelligent, sensitive people can and do have children like that.

Anyway, I never have been, and probably never will be, able to make the decision myself. I feel like, if it happens, it will happen for a reason, but I cannot consciously decide to have a child. I bet I would be a good parent, and I bet I would love the kid and do the right thing by him or her, but I just don't feel much pull or instinct to make it happen, and I'm fascinated that some people do.
Ok, I'd like to weigh in briefly, and I apologize if I'm retreading old ground, as I skimmed the comments.

In my opinion, your OLD life is ruined. Done. Kaput. F**ked. You will never be childfree again. You're through.

It is a process of growth and change. You shed your skin and are forced to realize that there is someone else besides yourself you are responsible for on a primal level.

Your base needs become secondary; the baby's sleep supercedes yours, their eating likewise. Their existence, that new life, becomes more vital than your own.

At the same time, the "meaning" you mention deepens to a level I never suspected existed. My world has expanded, rather than contracted, as my role changed to that of "Dad", and as time passes, I treasure that role completely.

The NEW role of parent is far greater, in my opinion, than the one I had previously....but it does involve sacrificing large parts of the old one. No more spontaneous road trips for a while, let alone spontaneous sex. It changes things.

If you don't want kids, go with that. Don't let anyone tell you differently. Only you can make that choice.

I hope this comment provides some insight others haven't covered as yet.

To all of the parents who have posted here with varying forms of the theme “my child has made my life better than it could have been” or “having children has given my life more meaning that it otherwise would have”, I just have to ask: How could you possibly know that?
Vinyardgal -

It's opinion, of course. What else is there? It's the same as child-free folks saying "my life is so much richer/better/less complicated/more carefree" without children.

The only difference is that those who have children later in life have a point of comparison between their child-free existence and after children came into the picture. Thus, their opinions have some basis in fact.

deering said:
"Too many parents posting here automatically assume that being single/childless means empty, embarrassing lives of "hitchhike[ing] through Europe or clubbing till 6 AM at 35 or 40.""

That's my quote, but I don't assume that. Actually I said nothing about children giving life 'meaning.' Meaning is where you find it or assign it.

I was answering the OP's question (she asked why anyone would want kids, remember?) from my own perspective and experience, and speaking to her fear that her life would be radically changed by children. My answer is that I know my life will change, but I embrace that. I feel MY life would be poorer if I never had children. That doesn't mean I assume everyone else would feel "empty and embarrassed" without them.

As I said right up above, people should do whatever they want. I don't give a flying fig whether anyone else wants to procreate, except to feel thankful (for Malthusian reasons) that not everyone does want to.
Don't do it. Don't have any. You can love your sister's kid(s). You can volunteer somewhere, do something like that. You can foster. You can adopt. You don't want 'em, you shouldn't have them.

It's okay. You're normal.

And we need more childless people on this planet ASAP.
Parenting definitely suits some people more than others. Sometimes I think to preserve biological deiversity, Mother Nature plays a trick to make it harder by having the kids and parents so different that they cannot relate well.
Nonetheless, the moment I watched each of my three children being born remains the best moment of my life.
And maybe in the long run, Janice Joplin/Chris Cristofferson were right.
Freedom's just another word,
for nothing left to lose.
It is not that hard, just different, and like the rest of life, full of joy and pain and sorrow mixed together.
The only reason to have children is because you want them and will love them. It isn't a 'pluses in one colum, minuses in another' decision.
There are already so many comments on this, but I just have to jump in because this is a topic I can relate to as I don't have kids and am not sure I want to. My mother always joked that it hurt like hell to give birth to my brother and I but my sister was a fart in the wind lol But she says that the moment she saw us the pain didn't matter anymore (though she rubs it in anytime we screw up - "oh sure, I was in labor with you for 29 hours and this is the thanks I get!" yes, really, it was 29 hours). The pain and parasitic condition part scares the hell out of me (I can totally relate to your statement on that.)

My sister is much younger than me and I helped raise her. Raising kids is a tiring and selfless endeavor, or at least should be, and there are exceptions to this. Those who have kids because they want them enjoy the experience, those who just have them because they're stuck don't. Kids are also disgusting - the only worse thing I think are cats with bad hygiene. They puke in your bed, they write on the wall with feces, they break things and then lie about it...The weird thing though is that a child means something to the person who they belong to that is indescribable. Anyone who has had any major part in the development of a young child knows that feeling - the one of wonder at how something so fragile can become what we are (adults), that the mind is forming and learning and the sense of awe in every new thing - I'd compare it to having a very smart puppy that can talk but it's even more than that - somehow.

Reproducing is an evolutionary mechanism, it's something our species has to do, we're driven to it and have to actively fight it to not reproduce (contraception, etc). There are exceptions, of course, particularly with the population-boom minded and the lack of a need for everyone to reproduce to sustain the species, but for most it's still against the norm to not reproduce. Those who have not experienced having a child really can't fathom what it's like - babysitting for extended periods of time or being a nanny can come close - but there's a dependent life focused on your every move and entirely open to being molded by you. I can understand what parents mean by it being life-changing and meaning it positively.

I still don't think it's for me though - but I don't begrudge anyone else their choices. In the end, we shouldn't have to explain ourselves. Kids don't ruin your life, they just change it - it's like comparing apples and bananas. But you have to want that change for it to be a good thing.
I am a 33 year old childless woman and have looked into this topic occasionally. This is an interesting response from a father to a hub on hubpages called For Unhappily Married Men - Kids Change Everything (

This was posted by Semper Fi Guy:

I wish every day that I made different choices in my life. When I was young I would never have guessed that I would be a husband to a moo moo wearing stay at home Mom and father of 3 kids. I never wanted kids .The family I grew up in was disfunctional. My dad was an alcoholic who beat up on me and my mom. I wasnt a fan of my sisters kids. They annoyed me and held my sister back from any kind of successful life. Now I find myself wanting to Drink life away when Im not working 14 hours to support everybody. I am having a fling but have been able to hide it well.I work so much noone questions where I am. I love my kids but not my wife.We are too totally different people. I want out.Guys dont get married and dont have kids.

Ge goes on to reply again to Veronica when she asks why he married and had kids:

Veronica. Im not sure if what I felt was love when I married my wife.To be completely honest.I liked her.We had fun.We went skiing and hung out with our mutual friends.I think I was trying to be "successful" in my life. "Successful" people were mature and had a wife and a house.All that "stuff".I never wanted kids and she knew that before we got married. But after hearing her pleas on how she wanted our own little family and how lonely she was and felt the urge to mother I could not tell her to forget about it. I agreed to having a kid SOMEDAY. Well someday was about a year after we were married. She hardly gave us anytime as a couple before getting pregnant. We had our son and it was hard. Our debt got bigger,the wife got fired, friends were scarce, and she hounded me with all her might.Dont spend this....we have a baby to support now.Dont go there you need to spend time with your son. I dont know why but she wanted another baby while the baby was still a baby. She came and the stress work and debt doubled. We had a toddler and a baby and the wife got pregnant yet again. It was an "accident" she said. We couldnt afford it but it happened.Three kids back to back.Im at work all the time.Shes at home all the time.We sleep seperate and eat seperate.We only talk about the kids and by talking I mean fighting. our biggest fight is about money and sometimes sex. Divorce has been brought up plenty and I do love the kids and its been said that she WILL get EVERYTHING including sole custody of my kids.

Another response was from Unhappily married with kids that said:

I so fully relate to this article. I did not even originally want kids.That was my Wifes decision.She threw it on me very shortly after we were married. Sometimes I wonder if that is all that she wanted to marry me for. She got pregnant three times in a row. The first two SHE planned and our third was an "accident".I love the kids but I feel bound and shackled. It sounds shallow but my wife wears moo moos around the house at night now.Not very attractive. I just spend more and more time at work which has even gotten more stressful since the marriage and the kids. But I have to spend more time there because the credit cards keep becoming maxed out and the kids need this and that, and that and this. My wife hounds me about the small pleasures I buy for myself like games and CDs even t hough I make the most of our money as she is only a babysitter. I want OUT of this hellhole of a marriage but If I take that path I may lose everything including the kids. My advice for young men is DON'T HAVE KIDS!

There were alot of responses from ALOT of men.
I think parenthood maybe one of those things that, for people who have no children and no desire for them, no truly complete explanation is possible. For those who do have children whom they very much love and want, no explanation is necessary. I'm sure there are people who have been surprised by imminent parenthood as a literal case of life happening when they had other plans, but accept the situation and decide to make the best job of it that they can, and love the baby when it comes. And there are people who very much want children, and find their new little space alien completely adorable and enthralling when he or she arrives. And I'm glad for people who want children having them, and glad for the sake of babies who end up with loving parents in a home where they are welcome and wanted. That is the way it SHOULD be. The baby after all, has no control over any part of the procedure until about age 2 when they discover the word NO. So best they're raised by people who love and appreciate them no matter how noisy or smelly they are.

I am comfortable with saying child abuse is always wrong, especially sexual abuse. I wouldn't want harm to come to even the brattiest child. I hate reading stories about children who are pressed into service as soldiers, or sex slaves. When I see children playing in the park, it's a nice, normal "all is normal and okay with this part of the world" sight. I can be nice and pleasant to a child in the line of work for about an hour, or at least fake it.

But I don't go any closer. I do not feel envious of their parents. I too, enjoy peace and quiet, and like yo, I love my sleep. I enjoy the company and conversation of adults more than that of children. I just don't have a lot of patience with kids. I don't feel deprived for not having had one. Possibly because I was raised by a single mother who had a distinctly ambivalent attitude about motherhood. She loved us, certainly didn't abuse us, provided for us etc etc, but at times, found the life of a single mother of four a huge burden. And frankly, it was, even though she ended up with four college graduates with independent households of their own. But only one of us had a child, and my nephew is now almost eighteen. So at 46, my maternal instinct never really kicked into overdrive, and my biological clock appears to have no batteries.
lamid - thanks for that link - fascinating. I just spent an hour of my life reading through the various comments, even though some are 2 years old! I work with too many guys who fit into the sad paradigm described.
Rated from another member of the "child-free by choice" set.
The answer to your question "why do people have kids when it looks so bad?" is simple. Brainwashing.

Think about the messages we are inundated wtih about parenthood. How many anti-parenthood messages do you hear on a daily basis? Look at television, magazines, celebrity culture and tell me - how often is parenthood portrayed realistically? It is glorified plain and simple and the downside of parenthood is kept very secret. There are too many institutions and industries that benefit from breeding. Think about it.

Research shows that childfree people are happier and have happier marriages. (You can read about this here:
and yet parenthood (esp. motherhood) is touted as the pinacle of a woman's life and the only road to real happiness and fulfilment.

It is a lie. Don't believe it.

By the refer to yourself as childless but in reality, you are childfree. Childless people want kids but don't (or can't) have them. You are clear that you do not want them, therefore you are childfree.

For validation and a realization that you are not alone in your perception of parenthood, please visit my blog:
You'll find plenty of like-minded folks there!
Don't worry, just be ready. And realize that your life as you know it is over. That sounds scary, but the struggle I think most parents have is that they intend to go on as they did before the kids came along. You just cannot do that. The thing is you have to be brave enough to let your old life go and look forward to creating a new life and new identity. It helps to be very Zen about motherhood. Kill the old you and birth a new you. It's not just a baby being born...
In my first blog post (published mere minutes ago) I address this very question. Check it out and good luck!
@kryptogal and others who are "unsure"

Ok, I registered for an account "just to comment here!" First off, great post! I want to reiterate what kryptogal said in that I think it's great for people to have kids who truly want them! However, for the rest of us, it's not a decision to take lightly!

I. Cherry Coating
What immediately comes to mind is that I have to doubt the genuiness of the responses you might get here, because of the fact that, most of the folks commenting are not truly anonymous... they probably have friends and family who read their blogs... and their comments. So, perhaps there's a need to cherry coat this issue.

II. Denial and Rose Colored Glasses
Second, I think many folks, even if they "were" truly anonymous, would have a hard time even being genuine with "themselves!" I believe in a theory that, when stuck in a permanent situation, most of us, in an effort of survival, will instinctively take on the mindset that we're happy with our lot in life - especially if it's one we chose (and created!!). Again, this could be another reason for the above folks chose to post... they are, once again, trying to convince themselves. (Not saying this is true for everyone of course. I do believe many people truly love being parents. My mom says the happiest time of her life was when my siblings and I were all growing up... thankfully, I've realized that it would "not" be the same for me were I to have kids!! haha)

III. The You'll be so Happy You Had Them *Myth*
Ok, now that I've stated these two things, I'd like to bring your attention to a very revealing thread of posts all from mothers, who, given the chance to be completely anonymous, have chosen to be genuine not only with themselves but also with others. Some here I believe are suffering from depression, but others I believe are just not happy being moms... period, and, most of these ladies posting *didn't want kids to begin with.* Their posts "shatter" the "myth" that "once you have kids, you'll realize you never knew what you were missing!" These moms realize what they're missing alright... they miss their freedom and "pre-kid" lifestyles. These are a lot of ladies who appear to be highly educated and successful as well. Many admit to "faking" being happy around others. So anyway, don't rely on the mother instinct kicking in if you're the type that didn't want kids to begin with. Here's the link, but be forewarned, these posts are really sad, and some are quite disturbing:

Here is a forum on married folks in general not wanting kids:

Some other good, child-free websites for those confused on the issue:

By the way, I'm also 31, female and don't want kids. I actually do really like kids though. They can be so much fun, and I consider myself to be a kid at heart as well (think I always will be!!). I just don't have the desire to be a mom, and like you, I'm also very introverted, crave alone time, and am not high-energy. I think I'm just one of those lucky people that needs very little socialization to maintain a sense of well-being. Just seeing the blue sky everyday gives me a sense of well-being. Why should I complicate my life with kids? I "do" think some people would feel empty, or lonely, or that something was missing if they didn't have kids - but that person isn't me! I will enjoy living a peaceful life as a senior without a lot of family (we don't "chose" them, after all). I will have my friends, whose company I enjoy. I'm doing what I know will be right for "me."

Good luck to everyone deciding. :)
" 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."

Having kids WILL change your life, profoundly.

For me, it was (is) the *absolute* best thing that's *ever* happened to me in my entire life-- twice. My whole world changed in the space of time it took my first son to be born. When I held him in my hands for the very first time-- aside from the fact that he looked like a 50 year old Swiss gnome-- everything that previously mattered to me flew out the window. All the anger, slights, hurts, jealousies and grudges-- were all gone. They were all so pale and petty in the face of the new life I was holding-- *my* son.

Countless poopy diapers later, I still feel the same. He is wonderful. The delight of my day, the apple of my eye. He's willful, mischievous, but at the same time a little guy who looks up to Daddy (and Mommy) for love and guidance.

I can't speak for anyone else-- and I have known parents who think its a chore-- for me its not, its an adventure, every day. And a delightful one at that. But I think that if I had been a parent when I was younger I might not feel the way I do. As an older parent I am blessed with having gotten a lot of living done out of the way-- tried a little of this and that, had a lot of fun, sowed plenty of wild oats, cried a little, laughed a lot, got my shit together, know how to pay the bills and be responsible-- all the stuff that trips up younger people, whether they're parents or not.

My wife and I both love being parents. Our little guys are so very special to us, I can gush over them for days.

But that's not what you wanted to hear is it? You want to know about the changing diapers-- it seems that all they ever do is eat, sleep and poop. Before our first one was born, my wife was all "green" and studying up on the effects of pampers on the environment versus the old-fashioned cloth diaper. She even got me involved and I read the various studies too (it works out about even, all added-up). She decided cloth diapers was the way to go. (I made her buy a few boxes of pampers too). It didn't take but a couple of cloth diapers.... pampers *is* the way to go. Nobility went right out the window (along with the used pampers :)

Sleepless nights-- there are some. Especially in the beginning. But our boys both are good sleepers, and after a few months (don't recall exact times) they both settled into good sleeping rhythms, and sleep throughout the night.

I don't know how other parents do it, but for us-- we've cordoned off a good chunk of the house that gives them a decent amount of space to play in. We've done our best to "baby-proof" what we can (cabinets, gates, outlet covers, etc) and then just do our best to keep an eye on them for the rest.

We are of two minds about baby-proofing. On the one hand you don't want your kids to get hurt. On the other hand if you baby-proof too much they never learn anything about their environments. I reckon the important thing is to try to recognize and eliminate the things that will kill them and then concentrate on helping them learn about the things left over. So far we haven't had any major problems-- a can dropped on a toe, pinched fingers, that sort of thing.

The best part though comes when they start learning to walk and talk (usually six to nine months apart) and you start getting hugs and baby-babble. Its fun to hear what they come up with-- to just listen to one of my boys say "Ohhhh Noooo" in his certain little way just cracks me up-- it used to be "Uh Oh." in that little boy voice. There is nothing he can do that won't instantly be absolved by the "Uh Oh."

Our kids grow up in a home where they are showered with love and affection. And they shower us with the same in return. If anybody tells you raising kids isn't work, they're full of it. But if anybody tells you raising kids is a pain in the ass, I *guarantee* they aren't doing it right.
BTW, all the things in your list that you're afraid of-- they're all true.

But don't worry, when you become a parent, none of that will matter to you anymore.
It's an outstanding contribution you've offered here kryptogal, and those OSers who have seen fit to comment have done you proud by extending the discussion you opened, beyond, into insightful and, for me, instructive avenues... Turns off the well-beaten path, if you will. As you say it is for you, this question is resoundingly personal for me.

I began a comment here earlier today in which I was detailing the resonance of the question for me, but I soon saw I might be hijacking your post (although that would be a tall order, with what an abundance of viewpoints are here)... Playing it safe, I've created my own post on the subject [my only OS post, to date]... I would be much honored if you'd see whether I've added anything to your prior ruminations.

Whether I have aided your thinking or not, kryptogal, you (and those above, responding to you) have aided mine. I am grateful.

You should look to your own family life to understand what it might be like. Your own relationships to your parents and siblings tell the story. Even if you love them it doesn't mean you like them or would chose to spend time with them of your own free will. Certainly a learning experience in unconditional love & acceptance. Sometimes families are abusive - sometimes it's full of love and companionship. Most famlies areare somewhere in between.
I do sometimes feel that the 'misery loves company' cliche pertains to having kids. 'oh, they are so enriched' after having kids, but they look frustrated, angry & run down & their kids are annoying jerks, etc. - we all know these families. Friends recently had a baby - unplanned - they looked happy & in love...then came baby..the father looked especially shell-shocked & they, months later, were sniping at each other, stressed, etc. Now do they love their daughter? Of course....and after awhile could they 'imagine life without her'...I would guess not. The wonderful thing about us humans is that we're pretty inventive & adaptive. Our lives as we know may be ruined but we carry on, we 'can't imagine' life being different or how it used to be (thank god) - and we do love our kids, so what else can one say?

I would add that it's usually the mothers posting & saying how 'wonderful' and 'fulfilled' they are - I'd like to hear from the fathers/husbands - it can be hard on a husband because they can feel kicked to the curb. Don't forget studies have been shown that couples happiness diminishes after children only to return (if they make it) once the kids are gone, secondly that childless couples are fractionally happier than couples with children - not significantly.

My main point: look to your own family life for clues to the reality of children & if you do have kids you'll probably forget that your life is crap & adapt to reality and 'make the best' with new people you love even if you might not like them.
To be the parent is an art.

All adults were once children, only many have forgotten about it. We have got used, that parents should be very authoritative figures. And from a position of absolute authority to operate, take out judgements, to punish, establish rules rather "well-badly" and not to be mistaken. Modern children revolt against such alignment of forces, and in many families to be the parent turns to torture. Actually there are no bad parents and there are no bad children. Simply often we really do not know how to find common language, to get out of deadlocks, to establish borders, to inspire, influence and remain quiet and happy.
my link:konferens
All of those candid responses are absolutely true.

Having children is the most wonderful, and inexplicably the most terrible, thing you can do to yourself.

Look, don't have kids if you don't want to deal with the roller coaster. Plain and simple. I totally respect that choice. As a matter of fact, I completely support it. But at the same time, go easy on the people who have decided to enter parenthood - they are experiencing something you cannot understand unless you are there as well.
I whole-heartedly agree with you. I am only 24, and have been sure for quite a few years that having children is not for me. I have a loving, amazing fiance who feels the same. Yet when I express this to my friends, who are on the fast track of baby after baby, I get nothing but concern or pity. Apparently it is "sad" that I choose not to change my life to raise a kid. I enjoy kids in small, infrequent doses. And I enjoy them even more when they head back home and I return to my fabulous life.

I am almost angry when women try to argue or justify having children to me. I don't need you to convince me, and insist that I will "grow out of this phase."

Thank you for your blog!
Like many others, I signed up for this just to reply to your post, even if a little late.

In reading the responses to your post, it seems to me that you got what you asked for. I don't know if you expected someone to actually reply that they ever regretted having their children because it just won't happen. I once read a letter from some Today Show doctor in response to a woman "on the fence," so to speak, in which the doctor stated that while she knew people who had regretted not having children, she never met anyone who regretted having children. I found this statement professionally irresponsible and absolutely ludicruous because it is so unlikely, if not downright taboo, that someone would actually admit to such a thing. The guilt and judgment attached to such a thought would make it difficult for someone to admit it to themselves, much less state it verbally to someone else. You just won't ever hear that.

In any event, when I was in my earlier 30's, just after getting married, I thought maybe I wanted to have a baby. But, clearly, not enough to actually go through with it (or even try). So, time passed, and I only ever thought about the whole subject when someone I knew had a baby. I would contemplate the thought for about a day and it would just disappear.

The April before last, a friend of mine told me that she "accidentally" became pregnant and she was clearly not happy about it. She had also been ambivalent about the whole childbearing thing. She gave birth this past January, and I actually started thinking that maybe she was lucky because it happened to her accidentally and she didn't have a choice. After all, all these other people (like those responding to your post) say that once you have the baby you love it and everything else you've mentioned is meaningless so don't let a little doubt stop you. So, to me, it seemed lucky for her that choice was taken out of the equation because, really, how much easier would it be if you just had that desire to have a child and there really was no choice involved, right?? You wouldn't be asking this question now, would you?? She got that, in a way.

So, I've been thinking about this for the past several months which led me to your post. Here's how it is for me. Everything you've raised in your post are feelings and thoughts that I've also had. I, too, have thought that childrearing people weren't telling the whole truth.

But, what I have come to understand is that, just like some people have this innate, strong desire to have children, there is something just as deep inside of me that tells me NOT to have children. It is actually only when I start thinking rationally about the subject that all of the feelings raised in your post come into play. I can acknowledge that inner thing inside of me telling me not to do it, but then I think, what if these people are all right and I just need to jump in because I'll love my child so much it won't matter that I didn't have the desire to have him?? They make me start to doubt what I know is right for me; what my deepest feelings tell me. So, I start with the rationalizations (those tangibles that I can point to and say, "this is why I don't want children") rather than just trusting my own gut.

So, I guess what I'm saying to you (and to all those others who posted comments to the effect that all of your stated concerns fly out the window once you look into the child's eyes and you suddenly want to dedicate the rest of your life to this new being you've created) is that, if you're like me, these feelings your expressing are really just a way of trying to deal with the competition between your own instinct not to have children and the immense societal pressure that tells you to go ahead and do it or else you're weird (I know all too well what that feels like and you probably end up putting even more pressure on yourself to make up your mind already). I have witnessed up-close and personal the result of children born out of sheer desperation whether it be to maintain a marriage or to bring into the world someone who will give love unconditionally or because of all of the outside pressure society heaps on you and the only one to truly suffer is the child who cannot possibly fulfill any of the expectations raised even before his birth. I can assure you that it is not all sunshine and roses when the commitment to raising the child is not there before the actual child. In the end, if you listen (truly listen) to your own gut and are able to ignore all of these outside influences, you'll know what's right for you. It is not "selfish" not to bear children; it is selfish to bear children when you are unsure you want to fully commit your life to them.
I am now at a point in my life where it would make sense to have a child. I am a single professional. I have finished school, I have a good job, I’m married and I own a home.
Wow, I was looking for a poem I heard while I was pregnant with my second son and somehow ended up reading this blog. I can see that you have received hundreds of answers to your question. I did not read any of them and I don't know if this is still a question you have but I am going to tack on my own answer.

I have two completely different experiences with my two children. I was 21 when I had my first son and was not ready. It was very difficult to be a parent, and although I loved and cared for my son. I found only a little joy and a lot of stress in being a parent. I had my second son at age 30 and the difference is like night and day. I don't love my second child more than my first. But I enjoy being a parent so much more this time around. Parenting is equally as challenging as it was the first time but I am more mature and more patient this time. Being a parent did not ruin my life, not even the first time when it was harder to deal with. It changed my life. Some of the changes were not so good, but most were positive changes, because I forced myself to become a better person.

Maybe parenting isn't for you, maybe people without kids are generally happier or more content. Maybe true happiness comes from yourself and not from having a kid and most people expect having a child to provide them with happiness and when it doesn't come they become more unhappy than before they had kids? Just a theory... It's hard work raising kids. My kids challenge me every day and I believe I am a better person for it.

I'd say that becoming a parent is a different experience every time for every person, it probably does ruin some lives... but the number one reason I believe it's important to have children (at least for me) is because I believe with all my heart that the meaning of life is love. We are put on Earth to experience love and the strongest love is the love a parent feels for a child. Nothing else comes close. No matter how much you love your spouce or anyone else, it's nothing comparted to the love of your child, which is the truest form of unconditional love.

At the end of my life I'll know I experienced as much love as any one person can handle. I love my boys so much that it seems as if my body doesn't have enough space to hold all the love and I would not change a thing.

40 year old woman here with absolutely no desire to bear and raise a child.
I love this post! I feel the same way. I've been torn for years on doing the right thing usually leaning towards not having kids. Wanting people and family members to convince me to have kids. My husband and I have gone back and forth for the past 13yrs. We are in our late 30's and he's had a vasectomy. It costs sooo much money to have a reversal.So expensive to have kids! Scary too! The stress could ruin our relationship. We are very close, we are best friends. We like and love each other and it just seems to get better and better. I don't want to ruin a good thing. We are happy with our simple lives. We have three pets, live a block from the sea, our families are nearby and we appreciate how good we have it. I've never been good with money. I am selfish, particular and an introvert. We enjoy each others company, we are homebodies. I like kids but I know they are a lot of work. My husband I would be great parents for many reasons. But we like our lives the way it is! But I go back and forth and I'm running out of time. Sometimes I feel I am bored and have had 13yrs with my husband and I can bring a third person in. He will follow my lead he would rather I didn't have kids though. My lazy side doesn't want to. Not to mention what it does to the body! Gestational diabetes concerns me when both of my Parents have/had diabetes. We live simple lives in Paradise. People always say WE are the kind of people that should be having kids. We are both calm and grounded. He is very introverted more than me. If we don't have kids what are we doing with our lives? But I've been really hard on my body but the Doc says I'm healthy.I smoke pot on a regular basis with husband. We enjoy good food, we are both fit and our jobs are very physical. We both prefer it that way. People have given up on us having kids. Some family members haven't nt and are a little pushy. I have two nieces and I don't make an effort to see them. They live 15min away. They are cute and I like them .If they need me to babysit I will always say yes because I know they need to nurture their marriage. I would be constantly working if I was a Mom. Nonstop! I know it would be great when they are small but once you become the taxi driver it sux! Not to mention not having energy all the time to nurture our relationship. I am also aware that I tend to overthink and either way I could have regrets. I like working on myself and having energy to give to others. What if when we get old we can't take care of ourselves? People will say see? I told you! I worry about all these thing and more like letting my Mom down by not giving her grandkids!
An acquittance of mine told me about two weeks ago that she and her sister were both very much not going to have children. Both of them did however, for a reason she didn't mention. She has 4 kids, I don't know how many her sister has, but she said that she likes my 'childfree'-posts on Facebook because she can identify, and that although motherhood worked fine with her, to her sister it's a whole other matter. Her sister says it's the biggest regret in her life that she had children. To her, they totally ruined her life.

How would it work for you, who knows. It's a gamble, just like you said. I also fully get the 1-10 from a steady 8. My life goes on at a steady 8... Well, 6-9.5, I'd say. Mostly on the high end of the scale. I don't want to gamble with that, as what I can gain is 0.5-4 points for a day, but I can loose 9.5-6 points. Steady works for me.

I know it's not about logic. You either want them or you don't want them, and that's it. If you want them, there's no other option but to gamble, right?
Just thinking aloud– and I apologize if this has been covered in the comments– but here goes:

Has it occurred to anyone that perhaps the people who are saying things like, "Kids gave my life meaning it never had before" are simply people with dull lives in need of something/someone to fill their time?

I'm sure this is highly subjective to opinion since accomplishments and activities come in all shapes and sizes, and mean different things to different people. However, in my experience, the people who are the most wrapped up with their kids, while usually decent parents, seem to have a serious lack of...well.... a LIFE.

Obviously, having kids takes time out of your personal life, and your personal time sometimes becomes the kids' time. I get that. But having recently been married and getting into the groove of starting my own life, I'm quickly realizing that my parents still seem to be obsessed with MY life.

I'm an adult. I've "got my shit together". Yet, here they are, calling me all the time, digging into my personal matters and generally just pestering me to my wit's end. I just keep thinking, "Don't you guys have anything ELSE to do???" Luckily, though, I've been able to successfully set boundaries with them over the last few months.

Anyway, I'm just trying to make sure that those who say their kids "gave them new meaning to their lives" realize that one day, your kids will grow up, and you'll need to have your OWN life by then. I love my parents… but I'm not here to "give them meaning" to their lives. I'm here to live my own life.

All of that being said, I don't think it's too far-fetched for me to assert that many of those who "can't imagine their lives without kids" just need a hobby. My parents most certainly do.
I agree with all your reasons. I'm 34 and I've been married happily for eleven years. Financially I could afford it. I'm at the point where I wouldn't mind taking a step back from the career for a few years. I figure that I could quit my job and do a masters slowly over the first five or six years of the child's life and then go back to work in my late 30s when the kid is in school. In my field, it would be fine.

But I agree with all your reasons and have said them myself (plus a few more) but now for the first time ever I also have reasons TO have kids. And that is because my life is so wonderful- my home is fun, my family is close, my husband and I have a great time, and as I've already traveled the world, built a career, saved money, etc, I'm spending a lot of time lately doing family friendly things that would be fun with a kid. Plus my husband's family and my family are so full of so many loving people, that I want to continue to be a part of that. I want to share my life.

But I won't do it. Aside from the reasons you've named- which I think I could get over- I can't accept the fact that my child might be nonverbal autistic or severely disabled in some way. I worked for years with severely nonverbal autistic children, and it's a lifetime prison sentence for the parents. If it happened to me, I'd murder the child and kill myself. I know that. So I won't do it. I'm not a gambler. Life is too perfect now. It's like Russian roulette.

I think of adopting sometimes but that appears to have its own set of problems and I'm not convinced that adoptive parents love their children as much as biological parents, no matter what they say. My friends who've had kids tell me there is an immediate love that kicks in when a biological child is yours. I know that adoptive parents love their children, but I don't know that it is as primal. I think I'd need me some of that primal love to deal with teenagers!

So I won't do it. Hubby and I discussed it and we've decided to let the option go. There is some regret- he has scheduled a vasectomy and these are the last days we can change our mind. But when I read all these comments what I think most of all is that the regret of not having kids for those of us who aren't really craving it and have happy lifes otherwise isn't such a big deal. It's less of a regret that what I'd feel if I had a kid who turned out to need care forever.

Anyway, I'm also pretty lazy.
People have children for many reasons. I believe the #1 reason, which is never discussed, is that a woman becomes pregnant and decides to have the child. Even in the "old days" you would be surprised to find out how many people got married immediately after the pregnancy was discovered although they would never admit this (so many 8 lb babies born early at 7 months!).
I then believe that the #2 reason is a strong maternal urge. This is very strong in some women (irrespective of how they actually feel about children). This is difficult to describe, because it goes against reason. Imagine the maternal drive as the sex drive. If you look at the sex drive from a rational standpoint, it makes no sense to engage in those behaviors with other people unless such a drive existed. The sex drive and the maternal drive is nature's way of continuing the species - it does not matter if the people involved are actually trying to have children. If these two drives had not evolved in humans to this point, people would not have sex and there would be no people - and you and I would not be writing on this blog!
My point is that since we can choose whether or not to have children (at least in certain cultures), the next strongest drive is the maternal drive. This urge varies in women and is difficult to explain in the same manner as a horny person trying to tell someone who is asexual why they need to get laid.
When you do not have this strong maternal drive, you begin to make "lists" of pros and cons, etc., because there is no urge to have children. The strong maternal urge, like the sex drive, is what makes it happen - that is why we have evolved to this point.
Since you do not have a strong maternal urge, I would say do not have children, because everything you state is true.
The same concept can be said for love - an even more difficult concept to explain. Is it true "that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved?" Some people roll with the punches irrespective of their painful experiences, so they will say yes, and others will avoid love altogether, because they fear the pain.
I have one daughter and it's not very bad.

In other words, what's the meaning of your life?

You want to be happy and stress free. But, you don't want to live so void life like that.

I saw some complaints with three kids, but having three is totally different than having one.

You need to balance your life. With one daughter, still I can live like single guy.

P.S.: For sure, we don't have plan for second child. Not in ten years.
Agree, agree, agree, agree, agree. It's hard to observe a SINGLE thing in this world and conclude: yeah, I think I'll have some kids. And the older I get (39), the more strongly I feel it.

Raise a shithead and you're doomed to deal with him or her for life (not the mention what this person could inflict on an already-troubled world). Raise a sensitive child, and they themselves will likely suffer by observing what goes on in the world.

For me personally, I've been scarred for life after seeing how animals are tortured and killed by the millions worldwide.

The only thing that makes sense to me is adoption, that is, helping out a fellow human being who is already here. Anything else seems like a pointless exercise in narcissism. To think you're doing anyone a favor by making more people, especially as we near the 7 billion mark, is delusional.
You really want the straight dope, instead of all the platitudes below? Type "I hate being a mother" into your search engine. That should tell you everything you need to know.
There is only one reason for parents to try to convert the child-free: Misery loves company. :)
This is a great article and loved the comparison to an arranged marriage. I think I can provide a different point of view, as an almost-parent. I see this was written long time ago, so I don't even know if it matters anymore, but here is my story.

Since I can remember, I always said I didn't like babies. I never played with baby dolls, etc. I heard grown ups talking about their problems with their children and I thought life would be perfectly fine without kids.

When I was in high school, my brother decided to reproduce, but not become a father. He was absent most of the time, the girl he was with was also absent most of the time as well due to health reasons. It became the responsibility of my parents and I to take care of 3 baby girls. I would come back from school to take care of the girls, entertain them, change diapers, etc. There were things I couldn't do because I was helping w the girls, but I don't think I missed out on much, honestly because being that young I didn't know I was missing on. I love my nieces, they were fun (at times), I feel like I learned responsibility, lots of patience, and maturity. My parents and I spent more time with them than their own parents. I had many days where I wanted to run away, like many parents confess. Finally, I had my wish when I went to grad school very far from home.

I acquired a different perspective. I felt like a caged animal set free. I became more independent, learned better social skills (yes, you do become a robot and kinda childish when you are always around kids), and had more time to study. I enjoy my life, every second of it. Haven't had a moment where I want to run away from it all since. Back home, my ex-sis and brother finally had a divorce, and she received full custody of the girls. My parents are also free once again.

We still keep in contact w my nieces, and I must admit the mom did a great job at raising them alone. Now they are teenagers and I feel sorry for my sister's headaches that teens bring. I feel the same way sometimes w them, and I don't even live in the same household. I loved helping raise my nieces, I felt I learned a lot, but mostly I learned that childfree is the right choice for me. The freedom, the independence, and your identity that is lost when you have children is something I value too much. Having lost most of my freedom, and then regaining it gave me a different perspective. Once you have children of your own, is a lifetime commitment, that I will never be ready for. If you are not 110% sure you want a child, please do yourself a favor and don't.
Honestly, people have children for all different reasons. Some are good ones, some not so good. The people who gave you those dumb answers as to why you should have kids, probably shouldn't have had them themselves. I think far too many people have children without giving it much thought (just because 'it's the next thing to do' or 'everyone has kids') and then when their quality of life seems so's because really, they shouldn't have had children. Because all those sacrifices are not actually worth it to them. I am the mom to two beautiful chilren, a 4 year old girl and a 16 month old boy, and they are my world. Unabashedly, I think they're the most amazing people on earth:) I love them more than I've loved anyone, and they make me happier more than anyone or anything. I will also be the first to tell you that my life is not my own, it is exhausting, and sometimes I feel like I would sell my soul for an hour of time to myself:) But it's worth it. Never, for one moment, is it not worth it. And the reason that when you look at my life as a parent to two young children and see all that it entails, and think it's 'awful', is because our priorities are different. Plain and simple, we want two totally different things out of life, and that's ok. I definitely understand why people would not want to have children. There is also definitely something to be said though, for really not understanding parenthood until you're in it. Of course, on paper, a child-free life is WAY more appealing. But you cannot qualify or quantify the love and emotional attachment that is involved in having children. Which for me, trumps whatever list you could produce. I just know that for me, my life would be empty without my family, which includes my children. And no, that doesn't make me pathetic. I am educated, continuing my education and pursuing my dream career in the field of psychology, have traveled the world, and am part of a huge community and social network. But my family is most important and what makes everything else worth it. I LOVE being a mom, for what it is today and what it will be tomorrow. I am excited to have teenagers, and grown children, and grandchildren. I am investing myself in my children to give them the best possible future and have a strong relationship with them in it. That, to me, is the best life I can imagine. I really believe the desire/choice to have kids doesn't come down to which is actually better (to have them or not), but just a difference of personalities and priorities. The world is made up of all different people with the power to make all different choices. I can't imagine every wanting one pet, I really don't like animals, but there are people out there who can't get enough of 'em. Same thing--their life doesn't looking appealing to me in that way, but for many people, pets bring them the most joy. You know very clearly what you want out of life, and that alone is an amazing gift! You are going to live the life you truly want, and hopefully you won't let anyone tell you differently!
I am reading this two years after you wrote it, but just wanted to thank you for writing a piece that SO mirrors my own thoughts that I could have written every word myself. THANK YOU for researching this a 42-year old, very happily married woman, I have already made my decision to remain very happily childless. I've never questioned my decision, except at times when others have made me do so, and I have absolutely NO regrets.
I admire from a safe distance the exquisite happiness of parenthood.
Just substitute "finding Jesus" for "having children" in these responses and you will see that having kids is a religion.
(I didn't think I wanted to find Jesus, but after I found Jesus... I live for my Jesus ... I would die for my Jesus ... etc. etc.)
Animals have no concept of what causes offspring. Humans have that concept by "accident" and the knowledge is not required for babies to happen. Therefore, anyone who says they want a baby is actually mistaken. Wanting offspring is not an evolutionary necessity.
Some people love it and others hate it. It's the hardest thing you'll ever do in your life. No-one, nothing can prepare you for it and it's for life!
I love my kids and would never change them BUT if anyone would have told me how hard it was going to be I would have RUN as fast as I could away from it.
Yes, you love your kids more than anything in the world etc etc... but it also comes with the following facts:

* You stop being a person and become a care taking robot.
* Your life is no longer yours ... it becomes your kids life and you no longer exist.
* Forget about going out whenever you want ... if you ever can, going out needs a lot of pre-preparation.
* Having time for yourself is a laxoury so forget about having sex ... you'll prefer you have a rest and sleep whenever you get time to rest.
* Privacy? What's that? You be lucky if you can go to the bathroom on your own.
* You'll also be fighting your partner to get some time for yourself.
* If your marrage survives when they leave home you'll just be burned out with no life left.

In the end you'll hope there's another life after this one to do the things you wanted to do as kids are for life so once you have kids ... that's it!

And this is the truth that no-one tells you.
Krpyotogal and all posters, I loved the thread and spent most of the afternoon reading all the comments. I have always felt EXACTLY the way you feel (kryptogal not the most of the posters). I have just never understood the urge. That said my wife is six months pregnant. I am looking forward to finding out for myself the truth of the matter. What is having all this extra 'meaning' going to feel like. Or is it a myth perpetuated by parents that already wanted children. I am going to come back in Janaury and let you know. I will be honest.
Trying to understand why humans want babies is like trying to understand EXACTLY how the human brain functions. We know so little about the human brain yet we think we know it all. In the same manner, people may attempt to explain why they would knowingly want to have a child but I don't buy any explanation. It is a mystery and a part of nature that does not need to be answered, if you ask me. I can tell you right now, that there are 6 billion + people on this earth, and many will think like you, while many more will think in the exact opposite way. Your thought process or fear of having kids may indeed be some form of psychological natural selection. In other words, it may be natures way of telling you not to procreate. This is a theory. And theoretically, you may not necessarily end up being the greatest parent meaning your progeny may not contribute to social advancement.

Parenting is hard work. It takes a lot of sacrifice and patience. If you don't have the desire to be that person one day, then don't attempt it, and don't wonder why. My parents always sacrificed for me and worked super hard, just for me (i'm an only child because my mom could not have any more kids). They gave me a chance to have a good life by acting that way. Luckily, due to the social circumstances, I am more educated and productive than they were and I owe it entirely to them for providing me with the opportunity. I could not be here and happy if it were not for their sacrifice and the same goes for them and their parents. They got a great return on their investment lol.

You wrote above. "I assuredly do the world a big favor by preventing it from having to deal with a “little me”". This means something. You need to figure it out. If you have confidence, or self esteem issues, or some type of issue with yourself, then this may explain the fear of procreating.

You will see that the average number of babies born to families will vary significantly between cultures, religion and ethnicity. Some groups want to grow while others are fine just the way they are and are actually declining. If you do not have strong traditional and cultural values, you can not understand how these groups feel or think. If you have cultural and ethnical pride (hopefully without racism) you would want to contribute to the growth of your people. Just a news flash... people are still very culture driven. More than those who are not.... just a thought
As a 44 year old women who managed to dodge motherhood with the aid of the Pill, I find it ironic to be next in line to care for my 85 year old mother with dementia. Life throws unexpected curves so I say enjoy your freedom while you can. And thank goodness for the Pill which allows women the freedom to have this debate and make a choice.
This blog was so good, I had to join Open Salon just so that I can give a "thumb up" for it. Took the thoughts right out of my mind. Extremely logical and eloquently put. Please write more and keep us posted on your research results. I am 33, married, and finally THINKING about the DECISION about having children, instead of going along with the assumption that that's just what people do. We have brains: we should use them.
I can honestly say I have seen both sides. I never wanted a kid. Ever. I told my wife before I married her, no kids, I'm never changing my mind, ever. I did not like kids and, like the author, could see mainly the negatives. The positives, frankly, never entered my mind. I'm an introvert and a night owl, I like to do my own thing, and for the most part other people annoy me and I want to be left alone. I do enjoy company sometimes, sure, but being an introvert, I find the experience tiring and I need time alone to recharge.

Fast forward to my early 40s, late 30s for my wife. She suddenly wants a kid. I'm still content without one. What to do? Somebody has to budge. I decided I would go along if my wife wanted that experience. I warned her most of the childrearing would fall on her. Don't expect much from me. I'm no Mr. Mom. It's not like she didn't know how I felt about having kids.

But I can tell you this. Even if you don't want kids, you will love yours, more profoundly than anything in the world. It's a love you can't imagine, unlike anything you've ever felt. Contrary to most people who say don't have them if you're not ready, don't have them if you aren't sure you want them, I say spinach. Have them anyway. It will work out.

And you can never answer this question by researching it or thinking it through. It's impossible. But if you do want research, read 'Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids' by Bryan Caplan. Lots of good info there. Including statistics about regret: more people regret not having them than having them. Certainly some people do regret having them. But enduring regret (as opposed to the occasional bout) is rare. You might as well not go outside because some people get struck by lightning.

I ended up helping more with childcare than I thought I would, by the way, and actually enjoying it. (My wife would do it all, though, without resentment.)

It changes your life, but your life changes anyway. Regardless, you will die. And either way you will find some way to accommodate yourself to whatever situation you find yourself in. But having kids is a fundamental human experience. It's what we are designed for (by evolution or some higher power, it doesn't matter which you believe in, or both). It's like having an orgasm. It feels good because you are human. Is that a trick of nature to get you to breed? I guess, if you want to think of it that way, but it works!

By the time you're in your 40s I think you have a clear idea of where your life is headed. It's not the wide open field of youth. You're on a trajectory and, although doubtless there will be surprises here and there, you're a little more than halfway through, and the doors are starting to close. You have a lot of life left but you can't really say at this point that anything is possible. But certainly this has opened up a whole new world for me.

My baby girl is a little over a year now. The time has flown by. She's becoming a little person. I cried when she was born. But even then it really took some time before I fell in love with her. I don't remember exactly when. The first time she looked at me and smiled? Maybe. When she fell asleep on my chest? When she was crying and I comforted her and then she stopped? When I first made her laugh? Well, definitely by then.

If you don't have one you're missing out. It's not that you're selfish, or neglecting your duty, or anything like that, just that you're missing out. But you don't know what you're missing out on, so, if you are on the fence anyway, maybe it doesn't matter. But then again maybe it will. Maybe, like my wife, and so many others, it will hit you later, and maybe it will be too late. It was difficult and expense (IVF) to have our baby, but for some people it ends up being impossible and expensive (or just unaffordable). So don't think too long and hard about it. But best of luck regardless.
I am 47 and I do not have kids. I never wanted kids. My husband never wanted kids. We believe God must have put us together. I use to get pressured by people asking me when we were going to have children. Now, no one asks that much, they either assume I must have them or not by now. I have never had the feeling strong enough to make me feel I should have children, when I don't feel I really wanted them. I have been in your shoes,with all the questions about should I ? Will I regret it?(mainly because everyone else is doing it .)But I do have other friends in their 50's who don't have children and they don't seem miserable at all. So either they are hiding something or they are just like me. Pretty happy.
The only time I ever think about whether it was the right choice is when I think about aging and getting old. (really old, you know like 65 -95.) Is it then that I will suddenly regret it? Other than that I don't feel like I "missed out" as some have stated on this site.Maybe I don't know what I am missing ,but then not knowing is bliss. So some may think we've wasted our genes or life or whatever. But I don't feel that way. When I was in my early 40's, a lady who had just adopted kids from russia told me not to have children just because people made me feel like it was the right thing to do. (she never had kids and was in her mid 40's when she adopted.) She said it wasn't what she expected and her advice was "don't worry about regret of not having children until you really have regret about not having them." "don't do it just in case you might regret it" I found those comments profound and meaningful because she had been on both sides and in my position.
The only thing I can tell you is don't have them until you are totally convinced you want them.No matter who says differently, and that they suddenly were happy they had kids when before they didn't think they wanted them. If you believe them,that it is a risk for you. I would rather believe my gut and instinct that was keeping me from having kids, and what is driving you to ask questions and have reservations then take someone elses "ah ha moment"
I knew deep inside I really didn't want them even when I tried to talk myself into having them because my siblings had them, and what if my mother hadn't had me, and everyone expects it, and on and on.
So listen to you instinct and heart. When you are 100% sure you want them, then have them. IF you doubting it don't. It is too important of a decision.
A brief history about me: I was one of those people who never wanted kids. Even now, I’m easily irritated and annoyed by others’ children (especially past the age of 2 – I do, however, like babies). I guess I see them as disheveled snot-nosed brats. At 23 I found myself pregnant, rushing to the altar and buying a house. By 25 I was divorced. My son is 5 now, and I’m about to turn 29.

There is simply no easy – if ANY – way to explain to a non-parent, what it’s like to be a parent. When I had my son, the instant love I felt for him was overwhelming. And this NEW love that I felt for him, was unlike the ‘love’ that I previously felt for my husband, family and friends. The way I felt about my son REDEFINED my definition of ‘love.’ Until you know, you don’t know.

Being a parent is hard work. It’s dirty and scary and beautiful and hard and miraculous and exhausting and thankless and joyful and frustrating all at once. It’s everything. I have hard days. I have had entire bouts of PURE, HARD everything involving my son – weeks where I wondered ‘will this bad attitude of his ever lift, and can I find a way to be happy if it doesn’t?’ Here I have this person that I love more than anything, that I give every ounce of myself to…I do my best to meet his needs, make him happy etc. and you know what? There are days were he’s completely ungrateful and tells me he rather be with his dad than me. It’s like, oh really, my best is somehow not even good enough?! But, that only makes up for an extremely small percentage of these past 5 years. I can live with it.

I think about how my parenting will eventually affect him…CONSTANTLY. Sometimes to the point of anxiety. Am I disciplining him too much, and will he turn out to be a total prick? Am I disciplining him too little, and will be turn out to be a pushover and a follower whom can’t think for himself? And here’s the thing: this is my first rodeo, and I won’t know the answer to these questions until he’s grown, and it’s too late to make changes. It’s a crap shoot. The thought of that is extremely overwhelming to me: I am responsible for whether or not this child will grow up to be a productive member of society.

The first few weeks of becoming a parent are an emotional and physical rollercoaster. You have no idea what the heck you’re doing, you can’t make your baby happy and you’re completely helpless. But then, all of a sudden, you adjust and you And everything falls into place. And you’re juggling and happy and you’re DOING IT. And you’re doing it well. It just happens.

I sometimes have to remind myself of the above when it comes to having a second child, because I’m scared to do it all over again. My fiancé is 40, never been married and doesn’t have any children. His views are in-line with your views. He’s convinced that us parents are part of a secret club, that spews lies to the non-parents to get them to partake in their misery. But like I said, he won’t know until he knows. I know men that never wanted kids. Men that were too selfish. Men that thought that it required too much sacrificing. Men that thought they didn’t have a personality that was conducive to becoming a parent. A specific man that wanted to FLEE prior to the birth of his first child. And you know what…that man had his first child, and she instantly wrapped him around her little finger. He fell in love with her immediately. Now he’s a fantastic, hands-on father, that is PLENTY HAPPY to alter his life ever-so-slightly to make room for his daughter. That’s what happen: you love unconditionally. For real. It becomes something REAL, and not just something that people throw around.

If I had to do it all over again, I absolutely would, without a doubt. My son has made me a better person. Before him I was selfish (like all people who don’t want children) and impatient. Now I am SELFLESS and extremely more patient. Having my son has forced me to grow up – to become a professional, aggressive well-rounded individual. There is no feeling like your child coming up to you, unprompted, and saying “I love you, mommy!” I can’t imagine missing our nighttime rituals of song singing and back tickling. Do you know what it’s like to wake up in the morning, roll over and cuddle with your child? I still sneak into his room at night (or my room) and watch him sleep – his little (growing!) legs sprawled out, and his pouty lips – and I’m in total awe of him. I made him. From scratch. And now here he is, at five, thinking on his own…developing ideas on his own…trying to manipulate me…drawing, being creative, dancing…it’s ridiculously awesome.

And more than that…I GENUINELY LIKE him! He’s hilarious! He likes Michael Jackson, dancing, werewolves, hunting zombies, Phish etc. He’s creative – I have no idea where he comes up with 75% of the stuff he does! Recently he asked me who was on a $20 bill. I said, “Andrew Jackson” and he said, “he was the 7th President.” Now, I actually did not know if that was correct and used Google to verify that he was correct. This past weekend I woke from a nap (yep, believe it or not I still get sleep…even more than prior to being a parent!) to find him standing over me with blue toothpaste, hairspray and lotion caked all over his face and in his hair. His hands were curled like a werewolf, and white lotion was all over his face and forearms; he was growling. I didn’t know whether to laugh or scream (we were supposed to be heading out of the house shortly). I laughed. Stuff like this happens The kid is ridiculous and a complete riot…who WOULDN’T you want him around?!

So to reiterate: you won’t know, until you know. And until then, I personally and wholeheartedly believe that you are missing out. You are missing out on real love, real life and a better you. It comes with its rocky moments, and sometimes you’ll cry and scream and be happy just to go grocery shopping alone. But, chances are, by the time you get back from the grocery store, you’ll be ready to cuddle that little baby of yours. It’s a beautiful thing!

Also – it’s been a few years since you wrote this article…I wonder, did you ever have children?
I love what you had to say... It was the most honesty I've seen about having kids in a while. I know there are some people in this world who are genuinely happy to be parents, and I am glad for them... But the majority of people I know right now are not these people. They are liars who are trying to get everyone else to have kids to support their own denial so they aren't going through the experience alone. One couple I know only has a kid because even though their marriage has been a train wreck for years, they got drunk last year and got pregnant. Now they are trying to act like it's the best thing in the world. Even though he has been sleeping on the couch in the basement for the last nine months. I'm just tired of lies and pretense. If having a kid makes you happy, good for you! But stop trying to make me feel like there's something wrong with me because I don't feel the same.
This is an honest post and I like honesty. For some odd reason honesty is rare. I'm a mother so I've experienced both ends of the stick and the truth is being a parent is hands down the HARDEST job mentally and physically you'll ever do (if you're actually parenting your kids that is), it's draining, tiring, hard, you don't get to do the things you like to do anymore or it's a huge obstacle trying to and the list goes on and pregnancy is terrible too, no I didn't forget how awful it was and will never go through that again. I do love my children simply because I have character and sincerely care about their well being and happiness, but I would never lie and say caring for them is easy or even fun.

When I had my children I was honestly shocked at how dishonest parents are with all the crap about it being the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to them. And now that I know what it really consists of I can see straight through those stressed out, tired, unhappy lying faces.

I don't know why parents lie about the truths of parenting so much. I recently asked my father about this actually and he said he wondered the same thing. I personally think many people find it more important to have other people (think) their lives are wonderful rather then actually have a life that's wonderful.

Family is indeed natural, but it's not going to make you happy like many people think it will before they jump into it or lie about after they're in it. It's also not for everyone. Having children is every bit as hard as you think it is and if you don't think it's for you don't hesitate not to do it.

I will add that with those obstacles does come the opportunity to build strength and character and that's what the purpose of life is, so in a round about way, it is a wonderful thing BUT NOT IN THE WAY PARENTS WILL LIE TO YOU ABOUT. Unless you like round the clock hard hard hard work with no rest and rarely any play if it ain't fun.

Just my 2 cents!
I also think parents have a hard time admitting the truth about it because when you do have children there is a spiritual bond and connection you have with them. So, of course it is not easy to admit how hard it actually is to take care of them and how much it does actually change your life once they're here, that's probably another reason why most parents lie about it.