Tag Archives: Parenthood

To Breed or Not to Breed

A couple of weeks ago, I wandered down a blog rabbit hole reading a post and responses concerning the author’s dilemma of whether or not to have a third child.

The comments were sensitive and thought-provoking, relying on various writers’ personal experiences and larger ethical questions, such as: Is it selfish to bring more children into a world where profound climate change threatens to create an uninhabitable future for the next generations?

Set against the current debates on Roe v. Wade, the decision whether to have children at all is increasingly fraught.

It is, of course, both a deeply personal and mostly unknowable decision with no ”right” answer. Some of the women had yearned for children and wished they’d had more before their biological clock stopped ticking. Others admitted that parenthood involved more sacrifice than they’d ever expected. Which isn’t to say they regretted or resented having kids, though some might have, but it was not exactly what they’d envisioned.

Having struggled to balance a demanding career with raising two kids— on my own after my divorce when they were young teens— I know it’s not a simple choice. And that it’s not for everyone, regardless of what your friends, family, or well-meaning co-worker tells you. Or, frankly, your spouse, unless they are the sort of person who is guaranteed to cook, clean, change diapers, do at least 50% of the work, and take over when it all becomes too much to handle.

The only person who should decide what you truly want is you. Letting anyone else pressure you either way will just lead to resentment.

As someone who is not particularly patient, and who likes things done the way I want them done, I could easily have forgone the parenting experience. And not because I don’t love my kids, which I do, but because I would have been a happier person if I hadn’t been stretched so thin.

I do know this: parenthood is hard. Kids get sick, get hurt, require a lot of attention for the first two decades, change your marriage (not always for the better), and come into the world with their own personalities which may not be the mini-me you envisioned. And how would you handle serious illness or disability— theirs or yours? Or becoming a single parent?

For anyone on the fence, I’d say you will be ”ready” when you feel that any and all obstacles are less important to you than not having kids. If you thrive on order and control, the chaos implicit in having children will be profoundly stressful, no matter how much money you can spend on childcare. Kids are messy, unpredictable, and not for everyone. I know an awful lot of people who never had children and don’t regret it.

Another litmus test: What’s your ideal pet? A cat, which can be happily left on its own? A dog that needs frequent walks, lots of attention, and rewards you with unconditional love?

Or no pets at all?

Photo by Julia Filirovska on Pexels.com


Ms. StrangeLove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About My Kids

Sorry; this is an outright lie. If you’re a parent – whether to a child, dog, or gerbil– you know there’s always something to worry about. What’s more, what you worry about is a moving target: Just when you think you have a handle on the problem, something you didn’t anticipate rears up to scare the living crap out of you.

The Seven Stages of Anxiety

Infancy: Colic; SIDS; will I drop the baby on its head? Should we decorate the nursery in black and white for stimulation, gendered colors since you’re tired of people asking if it’s a boy or a girl and besides you actually like pink or blue, or a neutral color they can “grow into”; your baby’s measurements vs. the norm. (Note: The 20th percentile daughter I feared would be abnormally short has grown into a very slim 5’7”.)

Toddler: How to keep them from climbing on tables; how to keep them from pulling off all the baby-safe outlet covers and sticking wet fingers into them; how to stop them flinging food all over a restaurant while shrieking hysterically; whether they’re talking on schedule (how many five-year-olds do you know who don’t talk?); potty training (how many eight-year-olds do you know who aren’t potty trained?). Deep breath.

Kindergarten: Biting: It’s the law of the jungle—your kid is either a biter or a bitee; falling off the monkey bars and cracking their skull open; being “behind” the rest of the class; whether my son would have permanent nerve damage from putting his hand on the broiler-cooktop at Benihana. (He didn’t, though he still has issues with impulse control.)

Elementary school: Bullying; not having friends; having the wrong kind of friends; doing their homework; remembering to actually take said homework out of their backpack and turn it in; whether they suck at sports; ADHD; their exclusive diet of pizza, soda and candy.

High School: Drugs; sex; cutting class; smoking; not being able to get into college.

College: Drugs; sex; cutting class; smoking; not being able to stay in college.

Early adulthood: Not finding a job; not staying in a job; staying in a dead-end job; dating the wrong partner; dating the right partner but not committing; living too far away; living too close and wanting to stop by when it’s really inconvenient; not calling enough; calling whenever you’ve settled into a quiet night watching your favorite TV show; not telling you what’s going on in their lives; telling you too much about what’s going on in their lives and giving you new things to worry about.

The point is: For better or worse, your children have their own destiny. Once you’ve safely guided them through the early years, keeping them in one piece with a minimum of trauma and hopefully imparting a set of values and a sense of humor so they can make good decisions, your job is done.

I’ll always worry, but now that my kids are 25 and 30 I try to keep it to myself. Some days are more successful than others. Happy Mother’s Day!